Music Class for Little Ones, and Our Music Together Experience

We love music. You can often find music playing through our home -- in fact, one of my "big girl home" wishlist items for a future house of ours is a sound system throughout the house so that music can be piped through. I also used to place headphones around my belly while pregnant with Camille and play classical music nightly (sidenote: really gotta get on that for baby 2.....).

Enrolling Camille in music classes was an idea that I presented to Ian when we decided that I would stay at home with her. Obviously Camille and I do a lot of free and low-cost things due to moving down to one income (library storytime, trips to the park, art projects at home, playing outside) but I was really excited when Ian was extremely encouraging for us to move forward with music classes. They are a wise investment for many reasons that I have recently learned, and I can't wait to share those!

Most recently, we have enjoyed the holiday music session at Music Together of Charlotte. This four-week session focused on all sorts of holiday-themed music ... traditional tunes like Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as well as songs and rhymes for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. The parents were all given CDs of the songs sung each week so that we could play the music in our cars or homes between classes. This was an excellent way for Camille to be familiar with the songs as soon as she heard the opening notes in class.

We attended three classes at the Blakeney location and also attended a make-up class in Dilworth for one week when we already had other plans that Wednesday. Make-up classes were really easy to schedule and I really appreciated the flexibility during the busy holiday season!

I loved dressing Camille up in holiday-themed clothes each week (the first set of photos above is from the first class, which was the week before Thanksgiving -- I didn't break out the red and green until December 1st!). 

So, what were my take-aways from having her enrolled in these music classes?

My favorite, favorite lesson that the instructor stressed is this (and it actually brought tears to this hormonal mama's eyes): Your baby LOVES your voice. Lives to hear your voice. Finds comfort in your voice. Would walk directly across a crowded room directly to the sound of your particular voice. Good, bad, or ugly, your singing voice sounds like Celine Dion singing a sweet lullaby in your child's ears. I do not have a good singing voice, but this gave me confidence to belt out the songs with pride with Camille as she sat on my lap. (Sorry to anyone sitting on either side of me, ha!)

Parent and caretaker interaction is stressed highly in this class. They want you to be involved, using your voice, clapping your hands, playing the instruments, and just showing your child that you are happy and excited to be there, ENGAGED and participating. And, taken directly from the Music Together website, I just love this statement: "By emphasizing actual music-making experiences, we introduce children to the pleasures of producing music instead of passively consuming it from iTunes or TV."

Even small actions like waving scarves around from side to side to the music can help with eye tracking and rhythm for little ones. I so appreciated learning these tips through music classes so that I can keep up the teachings at home. To the children, anything can be an instrument -- a wooden spoon beating on an overturned soup pot, the zipper going up and down rhythmically on a jacket, a stick hitting the side of a tree to a familiar tune. If you are interested in reading about some of the research done for early childhood music therapy, here are some great resources.

There are over 2500 locations in over 40 countries of Music Together and here is a class locator if you are interested in checking it out! I really hope we can continue with these awesome classes for Camille.


Christmas Snapshots

Christmas this year with a one-and-a-half year old sure was an adventure! There was a very clear shift in priorities this year as I was really focused on setting up some long-standing traditions that had sort of disappeared for years and years (for example, leaving out milk and cookies for Santa!). 

A few days before Christmas, my mother-in-law was passing through town so she was able to spend the night with us and do a mini-Christmas with Camille that evening. Camille got a new wagon from her as well as some other goodies like puzzles and pajamas!

The morning of the 23rd, I got Camille up from her crib in the morning and we went straight to my car in our jammies -- drove to the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru and ordered a half dozen donut holes and two donuts for a little breakfast picnic under our Christmas tree!

Later that afternoon, Camille and I drove down to my parents' home, and Ian worked a late night and joined us the next day. On Christmas Eve, we got Camille ready for bed, read Twas The Night Before Christmas, and set out peanut butter cookies and milk for Hoho. We let Camille try a bit of a cookie, and she ended up going for the entire thing and drinking all of Santa's milk, too!

The next morning we broke an old family tradition ... we let Camille open her Santa gifts first thing in the morning in jammies! In my family, we always had to wait until everyone was up, showered, and dressed to come downstairs, and we were always dressed up nicely. Ian was used to opening gifts first thing in the morning in pajamas. Two very different traditions!

We discussed it this year and decided that since a lot of my family likes to sleep in late (and we knew C would be up EARLY), we'd compromise and let her do Santa gifts in jammies, and then during her morning nap we'd all shower and look nice for opening family gifts and stockings. We let our family members know this plan and left it totally up to them if they wanted to be there for the Santa gifts or get some much-needed sleep! It ended up being a really cute way to fuse both traditions and compromise on how our little family will do Christmas.

Plus, since Camille got three gifts from Santa, it allowed her to fully focus on those presents and enjoy them for a few hours before more presents were opened later that day!

In addition to her wagon, Santa brought her Play All Day Elmo, a purple YBike, and a white KidKraft kitchen which now sits where her changing table used to be in her room. We gave her the Melissa and Doug food groups set you see above to go with the kitchen, and she got lots of other little things -- books, shoes, play pots and pans, a mini Swarovski ornament, some musical toys, a kitty cat, and some lovely felt play foods that my aunt made! 

Keeping it real ... the biggest challenge for us this holiday was her sleeping schedule. It is crazy, but I've talked to so many other girlfriends who went through the exact same troubles as us. Camille normally takes two naps a day (one hour each) and then sleeps 7p-7a. This trip, she screamed thru naps until we got her and then woke several times a night. Several times, she either was taken by my parents into their bed, taken by us into our bed, taken down on the floor to sleep with Ian or me next to her pack and play, or just gotten out of bed all together as we threw in the towel on bedtime. I can't describe how frustrating it was, and as bedtime approached it was sort of depressing to wonder how badly of a night we had ahead of us again. I hate hate hate hearing her cry. But I also didn't want to be completely weak and run in to get her at the first wail. We spent three nights in Columbia and were scheduled to spend two nights in Winston Salem with my extended family. After the first night in Winston, a night that I was actually crying over how frustrating it was for none of us to be getting any restful sleep at all, we decided to cut our losses and head back to Charlotte a day early. It was tough saying goodbye to my family (we did stick around until 5 that day), knowing that they were all going to have another fun night together, but it was so important to get Camille back in her crib. Happy to report that she didn't skip a beat and has slept WONDERFULLY since we have been home. Hopefully next year will be easier ... but we will also have a 8-month old then ;) 

Despite sleeping woes, it was a wonderful Christmas with family, and it was wonderful to witness it through Camille's eyes!


Barbecue (Not Really Barbecue) Shrimp Recipe

Last night we had a really good dinner which met my three favorite cooking criteria: Easy. Fast. Delicious.

This shrimp dish is one that my mom would make for us often, and the spicy buttery broth that the dish creates is perfectly sopped up with some toasted French bread.

I put together the shrimp entree yesterday afternoon, placed the lid on top of the Pyrex, and then just broiled it for 15 minutes once Camille went to bed. 

Here's my mom's version of the recipe, with relatively few measurements. I'll do my best to describe how much I used, but this is definitely a dish that will turn out deliciously even if you eyeball the ingredients!

Barbecue Shrimp
1 lb shrimp, in shells
Olive oil
Cracked black pepper
Juice from one lemon
Tabasco or Texas Pete
Worchestershire Sauce
1/2 stick butter, cut in pats

Place shrimp in shells in an ovenproof dish (I used an 8x8 glass dish). Drizzle shrimp with olive oil. Add pepper over all of the shrimp until they are black, then add more pepper. Stir around to coat. Add salt, juice from one lemon, and cover the shrimp well with hot sauce and worchestershire sauce. Place pats of butter all over the top of the dish.  Broil 10-15 minutes or until done. Serve with crusty bread for dipping in the broth!

I served this with sauteed green beans (olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder) and roasted cabbage slices (olive oil, steak seasoning). 

I had about 15-16 shrimp in the dish and it served two of us really well. Since shrimp doesn't reheat really well, I aimed for us to have no leftovers. I used the frozen bag of jumbo shrimp from Aldi which is just $5.99, thawed them under running water from the sink, and they were deliciously large and plump! 

So, why in the world is this dish called Barbecue Shrimp when the word "barbecue" for me conjures up the idea of a thick brown sauce over pulled pork? Apparently the original recipe has Creole roots, so I'll just go with the New Orleans folks here and agree that it's Barbecue Shrimp. 

(But shhhh ... if I had to rename it, the moniker would somehow capture the spicy, peppery, buttery broth that makes this dish stand out!)


NYE In Pajamas

NYE In Pajamas

This will be the first year in ages that we have zero plans for New Years Eve! And I'm okay with it. Of course I love donning sequins and sipping bubbly, but being 25 weeks pregnant makes it a little difficult to partake in those festivities. Will we even stay up to midnight? Hmm, not likely!

If you're like me and you'll be celebrating NYE 2015 in your jammies, I say more power to you. At least there is cute sleepwear and tall faux fur slippers to help?! Cheers ... with some sparkling apple cider! And clink clink to a great 2016!


Our Christmas Eve

I can't believe that Christmas Eve is already here. In the past, this has always been a day to wrap some last-minute gifts and maybe even hit up the drugstore for a few extra stocking stuffers like Christmas candies and lip glosses.

But this year I'm all YAYYYYYY CHRISMASSSS EVEEEEE for a few reasons!

First of all, this afternoon we are attending a small family gender reveal for my sister Laura. I absolutely can't WAIT to find out if I will have a little niece or nephew heading our way this May/June!

And secondly, I am so excited to get Camille all jazzed up about Hoho coming down the chimney and leaving presents. Serious giddiness over here. I made some easy 3-ingredient flourless peanut butter cookies (recipe here) and we will leave some for Santa with some milk at the fireplace. She goes to bed around 7, and then the craziness commences!

Merry Christmas Eve to you all!

Twas the night before Christmas:


Recipe: Hot Cocoa Cookies, from Allie at Key Ingredients

We attended a cookie exchange recently at my friend Allie's house, and her cookie contribution to the swap was SO scrumptiously delicious that I knew immediately that a) I wanted the recipe, and b) I wanted YOU to have the recipe! Allie, the blogger behind Key Ingredients, was up for a little guest post here, so I'll turn the mic over to her and let her tell you about these awesome cookies that are actually made using packets of hot chocolate mix!



I'm so excited April asked me to guest post for her today. In somewhat of a wild and crazy way, April and I were friends before we actually became blogging buddies. We met while we were both on our honeymoons in the Dominican Republic and after we got to talking we learned that she and her husband not only lived in Charlotte but our houses were only a few miles from each other. My husband and I immediately sparked a friendship with them and the four of us proceeded to hangout for the reminder of our honeymoons. I love reading April's blog for her helpful advice and tidbits and I'm hoping next summer when we're both celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary we can sit back with a cocktail from her Saturday Sip & Shop and look back on that fun and unforgettable week. Until then we will continue to eat cookies together.


Last week my daughter and I had some friends over for a cookie party where I was able to introduce everyone to these Hot Cocoa cookies. There's nothing like curling up on the couch on a cold day with a mug of hot chocolate so you can imagine my excitement when I came across this cozy treat in cookie form. You know anything that combines hot cocoa mix, chocolate chips and marshmallows is bound to be good.


This recipe comes from Love From The Oven and it's the second year in a row that I've made them for a cookie exchange party. I figured since they were such a hit last year why not bring the goodness back for a repeat appearance. These chocolaty cookies are rich and decadent with a soft and gooey center. Gooey marshmallows and melted chocolate chips are studded throughout to create that warmth we all know and love in a cup of hot cocoa. If your looking for another addition to your holiday cookie platter or in need of a warm treat after playing in the snow then look no further.


These cookies can also be frozen, just take them out as needed and allow to thaw on the counter or pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. I made more than enough for our cookie party so I stuck a bag of leftovers in the freezer. This method has been taste tested and approved by me my husband.


Hot Cocoa Cookies
Author: Allie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 dozen cookies
Recipe from Love From The Oven

  • 2 and 1/2 sticks ( 1 and 1/2 cups) room temperature butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 4 packages Hot Chocolate Mix (not sugar free)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. And in eggs and vanilla and blend well. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, including the hot chocolate packets.
  3. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be a little dry so you may need to use your hands to work in the chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  4. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon,drop the dough onto your cookie sheets. You may need to "form" them a bit with your hands.
  5. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 8-11 minutes. (I did 9 and they turned out perfect).
  6. Allow to cool for approximately five minutes then remove them from the cookie sheet


Our Christmas Cards, and Christmas In Uptown Charlotte

I am so excited to share our Christmas cards this year! As I mentioned before, Tinyprints has been our card supplier of choice for several years now. I was so impressed with their 2015 designs and had a really hard time whittling down the choices but ultimately went with this classic and pretty letterpress design.

The rounded corners add so much, and I also had our return address added to the back of each envelope. Definitely worth the upgrade!

I just love how happy Camille looks in these photos taken at the mountainhouse on Thanksgiving! So incredibly crazy to think that next year there will be another baby in the photo!

We had a really nice weekend -- laid back for the most part, but with some fun holiday adventures sprinkled in on Saturday morning. I met two girlfriends and their adorable daughters at the Ritz to see the lovely gingerbread house and macaron trees, and then we headed over to Founder's Hall to catch the singing holiday bears!

The singing bear orchestra was too cute. I have seen it before but never with a toddler. :) If you are around Charlotte and looking to check it out, a schedule of their performances can be found here. This is a great, free activity with children!

Alright, she looks a little uncertain of the bears in this snapshot, but rest assured, she loved them! She was swaying to the music on my lap. It was just too, too cute!
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