Grandma Castillo’s Visit

Dave’s parents scheduled a trip to Seattle on the weekend before Christmas.  Unfortunately, a crazy snowstorm left Dave’s dad stuck in a London hotel for about a week, so we didn’t get to see him!  We all had a very nice time with Grandma Castillo, though.  We made chocolates, played at Zoomazium, and Sam had his first chance to open up some of those gifts he’s been so interested in the last few weeks.

Grandma, Sam, & Dave at Zoomazium

Sam’s First Christmas

Sam very much enjoyed his first Christmas. It was something of a drawn-out affair as he wanted to stop after each present and play with it for a while. Oh…if only that would last the rest of his life.

Anyway, thank you everybody who sent presents, cards, and/or loving thoughts – you are all in our hearts and we wish you the most joyful of holidays.

Oh…one last thing…you might notice an absence of pictures of Sam opening presents. Well, we recorded them to video and will be posting the ones that worked to youtube shortly. Stay tuned!

A Delicious Experiment

As previously mentioned, this year, Emily and I decided to gift each other with a confection-making class at our local artisan chocolateer, Theo Chocolates. We had a great time making peanut butter pralines, truffles, and mendiants. The original impetus for this was an experiment that I attempted last year. Theo makes these wonderful treats called Big Daddies. They’re a large marshmallow and graham cracker sandwiching a layer of caramel all dipped in chocolate.

They’re sublime.

I got it into my head that I could make it myself so I bought graham crackers, made my own caramel (burned) and marshmallows, dipped the combination in melted chocolate, and called them Burnt Caramel Smores. They were wonderful but they suffered from one tragic flaw – I knew nothing of tempering chocolate so they melted the moment you touched them and were generally pretty difficult to eat. Fast forward a year and Emily thought this would be a fun way to learn to temper chocolate and learn how to make some yummy treats.

It worked very well.

The pictures here are of my second attempt at caramel smores (not burnt this time around…and perhaps lacking for it) as well as our first home-based attempt at truffles. It’s hard to say that this round of chocolates was anything but an unqualified success – we’re happily enjoying the fruits of our labor. Of course, there are things we’ll do differently next time, but all in all, we’re very pleased!

Christmas Photos

Christmas presents are great.  Especially when they have stretchy ribbons you can pull on.  Sam spends some time playing with his presents every day.

Bows are a lot of fun too, though none of our presents have them anymore.  Someone keeps stealing them!

Sam’s daily activities include looking at our lego winter village, touching the tree branches, and looking at each of our ornaments.  Here’s Sam checking out the tree with his dad.


Thanks to a confection-making class at Theo Chocolate, Dave & I are now capable of making ganache, tempering chocolate, and making mendiants!  Yum!

Our teacher was the head of the confection-making department at Theo.  She took the 9 of us in the class down to the kitchen (which smells amazing!) for class.  We worked in pairs for about 3 hours making our delicious candies.   First we mixed up some ganache and piped it out into kiss shapes.   Those went into the refrigerator to set while we watched the instructor temper milk chocolate on a granite tabletop.  We dipped some peanut butter pralines into the milk chocolate (those are the rectangular shapes in the picture).  After that, we learned to make our own piping bags out of paper and then used them to make mendiants.  Of everything we learned that day, we excelled at the mendiants.  We were the only pair that didn’t end up with chocolate-covered hands after piping them onto the tray.  Also, our instructor remarked that we were “so fast” and that our mendiants looked perfect.  After the mendiants, we tempered our own chocolate over a stove and rolled our ganache kisses to get them ready for dipping.  Admittedly, our truffles are ugly.  They taste great, though, and we have plenty of time to practice our truffle-making skills!

So, we enjoyed our day in the chocolate factory, and I’ve decided that confection makers have the best jobs in the world.  I wonder how one becomes a chocolatier…

Highlight of the Day

We had a great workout/playtime at the zoo today.  I can’t decide which was better, the dancing elephant or the bear lounging 5 feet away from us.  If Sam could talk, he would tell you that the best part of the zoo is the fish tank inside the kiddie play area.  He loves those fish.

Baby Wars – A New Hope

We’ve mentioned it before: Sam is awesome. He’s a happy, energetic, lovable little fighter who surprises and delights us each and every day.


He just doesn’t go to sleep very well. It’s not really his fault – his prematurity left him with reflux and a dependence on sleeping at an incline on his back, all strapped down. Yet, he found a way to start sleeping through the night early and fairly well. After only 2 1/2 months, we had a child who was sleeping 7-10 hours a night (in increasing doses). A couple of weeks ago that changed.

As previously noted we moved him from his swing to his crib. It wasn’t really a planned event – he simply had a blowout diaper and we needed to clean the padding of the swing. Not knowing what was going on, though, Sam thought it was playtime and would roll over, pop up onto his hands and knees, and start crawling all around – upset that we were pushing playtime on a child who was clearly tired and needed some shut eye. It took a while, but we finally impressed on him the utility of the crib and he started sleeping in it – POORLY.

You see, it appears as though the straps on his wedge and swing had been holding him down. When he woke up in the middle of the night, he didn’t have anywhere to go, or any means by which to adjust his position so he simply dropped back off to sleep. In the crib he can move all around, he can thrash, he can very effectively wake himself up. All of this combined to turn a baby who would consistently sleep from 8pm – 7am into a newborn who still goes to sleep at 8, but who needs comforted and/or fed at 11, 2, 5, and 7. NOT ideal.

Last night was the first battle in a new war on the sleep problem. Emily and I have come to respect the trust the books written by The Baby Whisperer (a derivative name that does the author an injustice). When it comes to sleeping, she advocates a Pick Up/Put Down methodology (PU/PD). Essentially, she advocates that, when your child wakes up and cries, you wait until those cries go from “I want attention” to “I need help”. At that point, you go into the nursery, pick up the kid and console them. The moment the tears stop and the child starts relaxing, but him back into the crib. The idea behind this is that he needs to know he’s cared for but that he’s also responsible for getting himself back to sleep too.

In practice, it looks kind of…well…foolish. Emily took the first shift (getting him down to sleep in the first place) while I stayed in the other room where I could see her but not distract Sam. Every time she picked him up, he would calm, and the moment she shifted to put him back down, he would start fussing. This went on for 10 minutes and I was sure that PU/PD just wouldn’t work for us. Then a miracle occurred – Emily put him down and he whined a couple times, then rolled onto his side and fell asleep!


We went from a nighttime routine that typically took ~30 minutes to a PU/PD method that took 10-15 minutes. Okay, but how would it work in the middle of the night? At 11:30, he woke up again and this time it was my turn. After waiting a little while to make sure his cries were real calls for need I picked him up, comforted him, and put him back down. Repeat this ten times and, miracle of miracles, he went back to sleep in just 10 minutes. Typically the mid-feed care times have been taking 20-30 minutes, so WIN.

At 2 he woke up and it was Emily’s turn. This time it was a feed so Emily fed him and then went through the PU/PD routine. This time the total effort, including the feeding, took 30 minutes. Typically the middle of the night feeds can take anywhere from 45-60 minutes.

Finally at 5:00, he woke up and started crying. I was just starting to put on my glasses and get up (after waiting for his cries to become more urgent) when the cries stopped. After a couple of snuffles, he went back to sleep without even needing me to do the PU/PD routine.

Finally he woke up at 7 and I got him up for the day – leaving Emily to enjoy another hour of well-deserved rest.

So the final result was the he woke up at the same times last night but the time spent out of bed for us AND for Sam was effectively cut in half. Also, one of the wakeup times, he was able to put himself back to sleep without our help. Hopefully this will turn into him being able to put himself back to sleep every time other when he needs some food.

The Baby Whisperer – poor name, great advice.