And Then There Were Three

Last month, we were just Colleen and Dave…this month, we are also Mom and Dad.

Luca Thomas Natali made his debut on November 1 and quickly stole our hearts. We have spent the last five days looking at Luca in wonder, amazed our hearts haven’t just burst from the amount of love we already have for him.

With sunshine pouring in our family room, Dave and I with our coffee and Luca snuggled up with us, it felt like Christmas morning.

We brought him home from the hospital on Thursday in the late afternoon and made it through our first night. There wasn’t much sleep, but not because of Luca; mostly because Mom couldn’t stop watching him, to make sure he was still breathing (spoiler alert: he was fine). There were hours of cuddles and the feelings on our first morning as a family of three is something I won’t ever forget. With sunshine pouring in our family room, Dave and I with our coffee and Luca snuggled up with us, it felt like Christmas morning.

I can’t get over his full head of dark hair and how long he is (21 inches, to be exact!) and how much he looks like his daddy!!! At any given time, at least one of his cute little hands is by his cheek, escaping from the swaddling blanket; when he is sleeping, he prefers to use it as a “headrest” of sorts, which has us cracking up. And when his eyes stare back at us as we hold him in our arms, we can’t get over the fact that he is ours.

Thank you all for the kind and congratulatory notes and calls. We appreciate them so much and are so grateful for the outpouring of love.

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Luca Thomas Natali, born 11/01/2016


Pregnancy: 40 weeks

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40 weeks official

I was officially 40 weeks yesterday, which means my due date was October 20. Not October 24, as we had originally thought. Funny story: the ultrasound tech had told us October 24, and that was the last date we heard, so we went with it. My doctor always operated in weeks, so I just assumed they lined up. Come to find out, they didn’t…not that four days is a huge difference, but still.

We are anxious to meet this little guy or girl, but I continue to think s/he will be late (which is technically true now, on account of the whole October 20 due date). S/he is still moving a lot, and I thought these babies tend to slow their role as they get closer to making their escape (as Dave calls it), so if that is any indication, I’ve got time. That said, I’m ready for anything. I haven’t hit that point that many women seem to talk about— that point where they are just ready to be done, like “get this kid out NOW,” which is another reason I think the kid will be late. Certainly I will be hitting that point soon, right?

A few things on how this whole pregnancy has been:

  • Eggs have been in heavy meal rotation during this whole pregnancy, which I find fascinating, because I usually don’t really like eggs. They’re fine, I guess, just not my favorite. But frequently from the second trimester on, I’ll eat eggs for breakfast (I’ve perfected the breakfast sandwich, people. I’m so excited about this) and sometimes can’t fight the craving for egg salad or deviled eggs later on. I suppose this is good, since you know, protein and all that.
  • The heartburn has not gotten any better since 20 weeks. Some nights I wake up, certain that I am a fire-breathing dragon with the capability of scorching the sheets. I have no clue what sets it off, as some foods get me, but when I have them again, I’m fine. I’ve tried narrowing it down to spicy foods, tomato sauce, chocolate or anything else, but there is no scientific explanation; nothing can be pinpointed as always being the culprit. Very weird to me.
  • I’m still drinking approximately three liters of water a day, which I have been trying to do from Day 1. They say you need to drink a ton of water, so I feel like I can tick that box off my pregnancy to-do list, but I originally started because my skin was completely dried out. I was fortunate that I didn’t really get the mask of pregnancy on my face, but rather the crook of my arms. Random. Either way, I tried to flush it out with water and it’s pretty much been the only beverage I’ve had, aside from some milk. I’m so bored with water that I’ve taken to adding a splash of juice, just to add some flavor. I’m a champion watered-back orange juice and cran-grape juice drinker. Just as I hit the 39-40 Week mark, I’ve seen some improvements in my skin being better, but that is not before all the water and my nightstand looking like the lotion aisle of a CVS.
  • Speaking of water…Since about Week 36, my feet have looked like giant, puffy old lady feet. I’ve been drinking so much water throughout the whole pregnancy, that the doctor wasn’t even surprised by their size. It’s super attractive and I just love that only my flip-flops fit (she says, sarcastically). It would be borderline impressive if, by the end of the day, they didn’t feel like they were going to explode off the ends of my ankles (which I assume are still there, somewhere…).
  • In related aches-and-pains news, my hips don’t lie…they ache. Usually at night, since I’m officially limited to sleeping on a side. Usually the left, on account of the aforementioned heartburn, but I wake up in the night and have to roll over because I can tell I’ve been putting all my (extra) weight on one hip for too long. I usually sleep with a pillow between my legs, but it doesn’t seem to do that much, unfortunately.
  • I had really wanted to have a handful of frozen dinners ready to go in the freezer, and do all of thing pre-baby things that Pinterest articles constantly suggest, but I haven’t really been in the mood to do that. Prepared and Planner Me is really disappointed and wants to heed the mental calls to action that scream “there’s still time! Do it today!” but then I feel like sitting with my feet up instead, or scrapbooking, or doing other random things that don’t necessarily need to be done, but seem like a better use of my time (they’re not). If anyone has easy freezer meal recipes, feel free to send my way and hopefully I will get inspired…but I’m not making any promises.
  • Along those lines, I don’t actually feel like I ever got into a “nesting” stage. Weird? I don’t know if it is because we’re not creating a dedicated nursery, per se, or what, but I don’t feel like I’ve nested. I feel like I took a more “all business” approach, which I hate, because it seems so cold-sounding. Functional, but not very warm-and-fuzzy. Our guest room is a semi-nursery, but the bed still takes up quite a bit of space (with nowhere else for it to go), so we opted to put the crib and a bassinet in our room, which seems logical for the first six months or so anyway. The guest room/nursery does have a dresser with all the (freshly-washed) baby clothes, diapers and definitely serves as storage for extra baby “things” like blankets, toys, etc. But most of the baby gear is scattered throughout the house. Logically, it all makes sense to me: the pack-n-play is in the family room, for napping during the day, since the crib and bassinet are in our room ready for nighttime feedings, but it all seems more functional (great, yes) but not “nesting” in the sense that I originally thought it would be. Maybe function over fuzzy is a form of nesting? Who knows. I guess I just think of nesting as setting up a room and decorating it just so, but we didn’t do that— we went with function instead, which also makes sense to me, but doesn’t feel like a traditional “nesting period.” Chalk that one up to unexpected things you realize about pregnancy, I guess.
  • We still don’t have boy names nailed down. We’re 100% confident in our pool of girls names (I say pool, because the plan is to see the baby, then figure out which name best suits him or her) but boy names? Still a little ways to go on that, as far as I’m concerned. Dave thinks we have a decent pool, but I’m not so sure. Stay tuned on this, as eventually we’ll need to come to a consensus, right? Are you even allowed to leave the hospital with a child referred to as “the baby to be named later”?? Sigh.

For now, we just sight tight…and wait. (Which is awesome for me, on account of how I’m just so patient…I can almost hear Dave laugh from the winery in Kenwood as I write that.) The doctor says I definitely won’t be pregnant beyond November 3, as that is the two-week mark from my due date and, assuming I make it to my next appointment on October 26, we’ll start planning an induction, so it’s definitely getting real.


Gimme all the rain

Fair warning, this post is entirely mundane

raindrops It rained yesterday (for about a millisecond) and it is currently misting and gray and I love it.

We have had nothing but sunshine and 80+ degree days for the longest time and I have to admit: I’m over it. It’s a terrible thing to say; to complain about sunshine and what one would typically consider glorious weather, but I miss seasons. I didn’t grow up with distinct seasons like a New Englander or anything, but a little change would do me right, right about now. I’m usually a warm-weather person, but even this is a bit much for me.

Sadly, the weather is supposed to heat back up later this week (hello 80+ again) but I haven’t gotten a chance to do all of my “fall” things that I want to do. Like bake. Or scrapbook (rainy days are ideal for this). Or wear a sweater…and not flip flops (though currently, that’s about all my pregnancy feet fit into).

On Instagram, everyone is posting about their PSL (blech), their Hunter rain boots and chunky knit sweaters. Meanwhile, I’m over here, line-drying the bathing suit I just crammed into for a heat-relief trip to the pool and rotating my two sleeveless maternity tops with pairs of shorts.

Sigh.

I’m ready to see some changing leaves and feel crisp air. I’m ready to not need my air conditioner anymore (both in the car or the house). I’m ready for chilly-weather foods, like soups and casseroles.

I’m over you, cold salads for dinner, you hear me!?

Is anyone else with me??


Website Launch | Bragg Vineyards

I have been waiting to share the launch of the Bragg Vineyards site and I’m so excited to see it live! I’m loving the way the design turned out!

Bragg Vineyards is a small (only about 125 cases annually) cabernet sauvignon producer in Calistoga and needed to get an online store up and running, in addition to refreshing the core website. Looking for something clean, with an upscale feel that was worthy of the small-lot wines, I was inspired by the new bottle shots we had done (thanks Megan!) and got to work on designing and coding a website that would properly showcase these two vineyard designate wines.

We also got his store launched and I can’t tell you how much professional bottle shots (or professional photography in general) can make your website leap off the screen. Photos can really enhance the look and feel of a site and I was fortunate to not only have the new bottle shots, but also some great images that owner/winemaker Bob Bragg had taken himself. It really does make all the difference.

Because Bragg Vineyards would like to manage their website in-house, we of course opted for a WordPress platform for both the core site and the online store. This also allowed the client to create the new copy he wanted and get familiar with the CMS while updating the content himself.

IMHO, the screen grab image doesn’t quite do it justice, so I’d definitely recommend visiting the website itself to get the complete vibe of the website, so head on over and take a look at the latest design!

bragg-vineyards_clcreative-website

View Site


Website Launch | Napa High Athletic Hall of Fame

This website launch of the redesigned site was a long time coming. I created the original (and first) Napa High Hall of Fame website back in 2005, I think? So you can see how overdue it was.

We needed a better way to search members, find info about the scholarship program, and just plain update the look and feel. 2016 marks the 20th year of the Foundation’s efforts to recognize the achievements of Napa High athletes (which was the motivation for the new logo we created) and a perfect time to update the website.

The old site, while it served our purpose, just didn’t do the Foundation justice, but the new site is like a breath of fresh air in comparison. And not for nothing, but the code geek in me had a field day with this one. I set up a special back end on the website for inputting new members, their bios, head shots, sports in which they participated…all the “meat and potatoes” of what got them into the HOF, so it was a fun coding project for me, as well. So happy with the results!

For reference, take a look at the dark, old site and then the fresh, new one below:
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View Site


Pregnancy: 22 weeks

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obligatory bump pic

I’m officially 22 weeks into this pregnancy! We had the 20-week ultrasound earlier this month and we (and by “we,” I mean “me”) were able to resist the urge to find out the gender of this little nugget, but according to the tech at the hospital, she wasn’t sure she could have confidently told us anyway, because apparently my child is not a morning person (definitely a trait inherited from my side). Twice now we have gone for ultrasounds in the morning and this kid didn’t feel like moving around. They had me pacing, rolling (to see if gravity helped), eating, drinking, coughing…all of it. Nothing. Apparently the kid was comfortable. Or stubborn. Or both. We actually had to return to the hospital later in the week because the 109 images they took at the 20-week appointment weren’t enough to get a full picture of the kid’s spine. So I made a late afternoon appointment. And we were successful. The images needed were taken, analyzed and we’re happy to report all looks well.

The official due date is October 24, so we’ll see how that goes.

A few items of note (a.k.a., what I want to remember, but probably won’t be able to recall on my own later on):

  • I’ve been feeling pretty good; a little achy at night, but otherwise just going along fine. I’ve headed back to the gym after a first trimester hiatus, when napping trumped all, and it seems to at least be helping me sleep better.
  • it feels like s/he is doing some serious flips in there– like the feeling you get being at the top of the roller coaster right before you fly down. But the movement is all internal. Nothing to really feel on the outside (yet), but the other night I was laying down to go to bed, and in my effort to get situated, I felt some sort of elbow or knee or something. I was suddenly wide awake and kept trying to find it again, but the Little Bean shifted away. Yesterday, s/he took to punching me and I was forced to reprimand him/her in the soap aisle at Target. Not weird at all.
  • heartburn is for real. Holy fire-breathing dragons, Batman! Anything can set me off (like toast) but then I will turn around and have Mexican food and nothing. Weird.
  • I’m trying my absolute very best to not give into the salty food cravings I want so badly. So far I’m at like a 50% success rate.
  • speaking of foods, if I could eat a tuna sandwich with a Clausen pickle and Lays potato chips (I’m very brand-loyal) on the side, every day, I would be so content with life. Instead, I’m devouring fruit like it’s going out of style. Watermelon is my jam right now. I’m also looking forward to the day when I can have the bacon-wrapped scallops that my brother made for my mom’s birthday a few weeks ago. Staring longingly at them, without the possibility of tasting them, was possibly one of the most painful food experiences of my life.
  • We haven’t landed on any names yet. This is, in part, because Dave really wants to meet this tiny human and see what would fit best. But also because I would like to try and get a (first) name that is not already in play elsewhere in our family. Due to the sheer number of the LeMasters/Gerlachs/Natalis/Carignans, this is proving tricky. We have more girl options than boy, but not even those are narrowed down. Eventually this child will have a name, other than TBD. I swear.
  • I’m incredibly thankful for the stash of maternity clothes my sister-in-law gave me this weekend. My wardrobe has increased exponentially and I’m no longer limited to two pairs of leggings and a black or white tank top. It’s fantastic!

A little over halfway there already…I can’t believe it. Since we’ve done all of nothing in preparation for this kid, we should probably get on that. This weekend might consist of registering for baby items, so for all of you moms (and dads) out there, please leave me a comment with the items you absolutely could not live without. (Or, the items that were fluff that aren’t really practical/worth it.) It would help me out tremendously!


Website Launch | Purple Heart Wines

I have been meaning to post this for a while, as the Purple Heart Wines website launched a few months ago, but then there was that whole, “we’re having a baby” thing, which led me to want to take on more projects now (while I’m feeling good) and, long story short, here we are.

But I’m so proud of this website, as it really pushed me out of some of my coding comfort zones. I love a project that not only has fun content with which to work, but also presents a new coding challenge. Most of my projects do this in some regard, but Purple Heart Wines gave me an opportunity to hone some javascript skills and I was beyond pleased with how the website turned out.

This was also my first website designed in a content management system other than WordPress, which presented another unique set of challenges, but again, that challenge motivated me even more, making me just plain excited to solve the puzzle and work on the site.

The wine itself honors those who serve and protect our country every day, so I was incredibly excited to be a part of something like this.

View site

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Farmers Market Field Trips

It’s no secret that one of the things that I miss the most about Europe are their farmers’ markets; there was always a place to go for gorgeous, fresh and seasonal produce and a few fun, specialty items for sale, which is why I’m so excited for our Napa Farmers’ Market to start back up!

A photography friend of mine and I decided to take a field trip to the market’s new location at the movie theater parking lot this week, snap a few colorful photos and maybe sample some of the offerings.

I ended up walking away with some red butter lettuce from Big Ranch Farms, one of our favorite produce stands in town who is a “must-shop” when I visit the Napa Farmers’ Market. That red butter lettuce turned into a tasty salad that night, packed with some extra protein in the form of deliciously-grilled steak slices. Recipe below, in case you’re wondering.

If you’re in town visiting, or just not sure what the deal is with the Napa Farmer’s Market (since it is in a new location this year) here’s what you need to know:

Napa Farmer’s Market:

Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8:00am to 12:30pm
Runs May 1 – Oct 31st
195 Gasser Dr., Napa (a.k.a the movie theater paring lot)

Check out these colorful (and local) offerings from this week’s market:

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got onions?

Napa-Farmers-Market_Amethyst Basil

Amethyst Basil

Napa-Farmers-Market_purple cauliflower

This purple cauliflower

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Big Ranch Farms always has good stuff

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the colors of these artichokes… {sigh}

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the fruits at the markets are my favorite things ever

Weeknighter Steak Salad

Serves 2, but can easily be halved if your husband doesn’t eat red meat…or whatever.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious
Note: Lately I don’t know what I want to eat until right around dinner time (fickle pregnancy taste buds!) so we are usually cooking on the fly. Since we keep our gas grill accessible year-round, this is a an easy and tasty meal to whip up.
Ingredients:

Steak Rub
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Salad
2 five- to six-ounce beef tenderloin steaks, each about ½ inch thick
6 cups greens, chef’s choice on variety (though the red butter lettuce was tasty, I’ve made this before romaine, spinach and mixed greens, all with good results)
½ red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup sliced red onion (optional; as I’m not a raw onion fan, I omit)
2 tomatoes, diced
4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
Vinaigrette
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions:

napa-farmers-market_big-ranch-farms_lettuce

This made for a lovely dinner salad.
Photo courtesy of Untapped Media

Preheat your grill. (I like to let it run on high for about 10 minutes, then turn it down to my desired cooking heat.) Mix all rub ingredients in small bowl. Spoon half of the mixture on the tops of the steaks and rub in. Flip steaks and use the remaining rub on the other side, rubbing in well. Grill to preferred temperature on a medium-low (gas) grill. When finished cooking, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes before thinly slicing into strips. Meanwhile…

In two large bowls (fondly named “Jethro bowls” in our house), combine the greens, bell pepper, onion (if using), tomatoes, steak slices and cheese.

For vinaigrette:
Whisk oil, vinegar and mustard in medium bowl to blend. I usually don’t add salt or pepper here, as I have some on the steaks, but go for it, if you so desire. Drizzle over salad and get your grub on.