Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Dishes: Sparkling Sugar Cranberry Brie Bites

Photo and recipe courtesy of Yummy Mummy Kitchen

I have found Pinterest to be the best holiday planning tool!  The number of amazing and creative ideas people post on there are too many to count.  I saw this one and thought it was a beautiful presentation that feels so festive!  And who doesn't love the decadence of brie at the holidays?!  

Just add a glass of champagne and you have a very fancy start to any holiday party!

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites 
makes about 16 

Sugared Cranberries 

2 cups fresh cranberries 
1 cup good maple syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator overnight. 
Drain cranberries in a colander. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish. Add cranberries in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour. 

16 crackers
8 oz Brie cheese
cranberry chutney or cranberry relish
fresh mint for garnish

Assemble crackers with one slice of brie, a light layer of cranberry chutney, and 4 or 5 sugared cranberries. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays: Pecan Sandies


I mentioned a few posts back that we have been thinking about ideas for traditions that we could start with Jane.  Traditions have always been very important in my family, and Mark and I are so excited to create new ones.  Recently, I saw on a blog post an idea that I fell in love with.  The blogger and her family spend Christmas Eve baking cookies for Santa.  Every person got to pick their favorite cookie to make for ole Saint Nick.  I love the thought of a family filled kitchen!!    

Even though we still have a few weeks until Christmas Eve arrives, I have been scrouing the web for cookie recipes that sound perfect for the occasion.  After going through several "cookie of the day" options on Martha Stewart's website, I arrived at one for Pecan Sandies that sounded delicious and easy to prepare.  Even more perfect, I currently have all of these ingredients in my fridge and pantry - and you probably do too.  I love a recipe that is full of flavor but has basic, always-in-the-cupboard, ingredients.  I think this might be my cookie choice for 2011!!
Pecan Sandies 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in vanilla and salt. With mixer on low, gradually add flour, beating just until combined. Fold in pecans.
  2. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, and place on two baking sheets, 2 inches apart. With the dampened bottom of a glass, lightly flatten each ball.
  3. Bake until cookies are golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.
Do you have any Christmas traditions that you love?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dear Jane: Welcome to the World

Dear Jane,

It has been two whole weeks since we welcomed you into our world.  In some ways it seems like just yesterday, and in others, its hard to remember our lives without you.   I thought I'd tell you the story of the day/night we welcomed you into the world.

On Sunday, November 20th, I woke up feeling not much different than I had the day before.  I felt achy in my lower back and hips, a lot of weightiness in those areas as well, and I was growing more and more anxious to deliver.  As we got closer to my 41 week mark, I was getting nervous that I would not go into spontaneous labor and would have to be induced.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I was truly hoping it would happen on its own.

So we woke up Sunday morning, and we decided to walk until I could walk no more.  When walking, I would actually have contractions.  Once I was rested - none!  So daddy and I walked for an hour and took a break.  Then grandpa, grandpa and your aunt joined us for a walk to Laurel Street Bakery.  More rest.  A little football.  Another walk around the neighborhood.  We threw in some spicy Popeye's chicken for good measure.

Finally, around five thirty, daddy and mommy went for one last walk.  We walked for a little over an hour, and I had random mild contractions throughout the walk but nothing constant.  So, we stopped into Whole Foods to pick up a few things for dinner.  About five minutes after we got home, I heard a little "pop" and felt a sudden gush of fluid.  I ran to daddy and shouted "I think my water just broke!"

At that point, we started rushing around to prepare ourselves for the trip to the hospital.  Daddy straightened up the house and finished packing his bag.  I showered, dried and straightened my hair, and put on make up.  About halfway through doing these things, my contractions were strengthening and increasing in intensity so I told daddy we had to go - NOW!!

Daddy very patiently drove us to the hospital after asking our friends and neighbors to look after Beignet.  By this point, my contractions were becoming unbearable.  I wanted an epidural more than I've wanted anything before.  Even though we had called ahead and gotten directions to get us to the ER, we ended up in the wrong garage and had to turn around in a hurry!  It was not funny then, but it's funny now to think about Daddy getting turned around.

Daddy dropped me off in the ER to get checked in around 8:15.  By 8:30, they had checked me, and I was four to five centimeters dilated.  Around ten to nine, they gave me my fluids and antibiotics and told me the epidural would be administered in about a half hour.  I could not imagine having to bear the contractions for another 30 minutes, but sure enough that time indeed passed and the second the epidural came, I felt the kind of relief I've heard other moms talk about.  Ahhhh...

My epidural had kicked in so I was feeling wonderful and very excited!!

I was checked again around 9:15 and was six cm and progressing rapidly, so we visited with grandma, grandpa, aunt S and uncle m.  By about 10:30 when they checked me again, I was 8-9 cm.  At that point, they showed me how to push and prepared me for what I would need to do once Dr. Champlin arrived.  It was all happening so fast, I couldn't believe it.

I expected to be laboring into the wee hours of the morning, and instead, I was preparing to push!  At around 12:15, I was complete, and I pushed through three contractions with the nurses.  By 12:30, Dr. Champlin arrived and administered pushing through one contraction.  Then I pushed through the next.  And just before the next push he said "Let's meet this baby."  It was a surreal moment.  In just seconds I was going to push for the last time and see your sweet face and learn your gender.

I took a deep breath and before you know it you had arrived.  What a truly magical moment.  To see you for the first time took my breath away.  Daddy said, "So...  what is it?," and the nurse, nurse's aid, and Dr. Champlin called out in unison, "It's a girl!!!"  We were speechless.  We were both convinced you were a boy.
Love at first sight...

After I held you, they took you away for a bath and then gave you to daddy.  To see him hold you was the most amazing moment of my life so far.  It was the purest love I've ever seen and made me love daddy more than I ever thought possible.  Neither of us had ever seen something as perfect as you, and we were in awe of your little face and fingers and toes.  To say that you are a miracle is nothing short of the truth.  We continue every day to be thankful for you, Baby Jane.  To watch you grow is the greatest gift in the world.

Daddy's girl

Love you more each day,

Mommy and Daddy

Friday, November 25, 2011

I'm Thankful For...

Ten Little Fingers

And Ten Little Toes

 Two Bright Eyes

And One Button Nose



Sweet Baby Jane, there is nothing we have ever been more grateful for than you.  Daddy and I love you and are so lucky that you have joined our family.  I can't remember a day when I lived without you.

In thanksgiving for our many blessings,

Mommy and Daddy

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby...

At 12:42 on Monday, November 21st, we joyfully welcomed sweet Baby Jane into our family.  She is absolutely perfect, and even though she has been in our lives for less than 24 hours, she has changed them forever.  There is no love I have ever known that is more instantaneous than my love for her.  And to see Mark hold his baby girl only strengthens my love for him.

From our little family, thank you for all of the well wishes.  We cannot wait to share many wonderful memories with you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Patiently Waiting...

Dear Baby A,

We're trying so hard to wait patiently for your arrival.  But we're starting to get more and more anxious about your arrival.  I know it's warm and cozy in my belly, and it's a little chilly outside, but I promise we have a lovely little sweater for you and plenty of blankets to keep you warm.  Please come and join us soon!


I thought this summed it up well!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

40 Weeks: Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler, Baby A

Dear Baby A,

Today is your due date birthday!  I really cannot believe that 40 weeks ago you were just a twinkle in our eyes.  We are so very excited to meet you anytime you're ready.


Maternity Tee Via Fleurty Girl

Do you know that Mommy and Daddy found out about you on March 12th?  Mommy had worked all day and met Daddy at the St. Patrick's Day parade.  We watched the parade roll by and enjoyed all of the revelry that ensues at this annual celebration.  On the way home, we stopped by Walgreens and picked up a pregnancy test.  Sure enough, two lines later and Mommy and Daddy were joyously celebrating our good fortune.  I think it was perfectly fitting for a Nola baby like yourself to announce your presence following a parade. 

Today, Mommy will be attending a very fancy lunch hosted by the Captain of Daddy's parade.  The lunch is for a few of the women who volunteered for the Krewe last year.  I did the calligraphy for the Krewe's Mardi Gras Ball invitations, and I couldn't have been more honored to received such a gracious invitation.  As much as I have wanted you to arrive, I think it's kind of special that you will be able to go to the lunch with me.  There are so many things about New Orleans that I cannot wait to share with you, but Mardi Gras, with all of its festive traditions, is the one I am most excited about.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories take place along a parade route.  If I close my eyes, I can see the exact movements and signals that indicate the parade will soon be passing before you.  First, you begin to notice that the speed of the cotton candy/peanut vendors picks up.  They are no longer casually passing by with their shopping carts filled with brightly colored spun sugar.  Instead you see them walking faster and faster until they are almost jogging to get to a break in the crowd so that they can make way for the parade.

Then, from a distance you can hear a blurred "bloop-bloop" of a police siren.  It's not a full round of the harmonious sound that their vehicles will soon make, but it's enough to let you know that they are nearing.  And just like that the crowds start to push forward edging closer to the street.  Everyone wants a good spot for the upcoming spectacle. 

And just when my Daddy was fairly certain that my anticipation was about to boil over, I'd get an elevated seat on his shoulders so that I could excitedly inform the crowd around us I could see the parade in the distance. 

Once seen in the distance, you can literally feel the parade coming.  The parades open with a round of police sirens followed by either the horns of the Shriners or the drums of one of the city's finest marching bands.  You start to feel the beat of the drums in the ground, and that is when you know - it's Mardi Gras Time!

Since the day we have found out about you, I have pictured you dressed in the cutest costume we can find (we already have a ducky costume for you) along the parade route.  I imagine sharing the excitement I still feel every time those vendors start to move a little faster.  I image seeing the spectacle through your little eyes and living the childlike fantasy that is Mardi Gras through you. 

I imagine showing you just where Daddy is on his float and seeing your excitement as he hands you all of his most prized Krewe treasures.  That is the moment I truly cannot wait for.  To see your little face light up when you see your Daddy roll by will be the highlight of the season for me.

And the season feels like it is beginning now!  And you will get to be a part of it.

Let's let the good times roll, Baby A.

You are our little Mardi Gras baby.  We absolutely cannot wait to meet you soon.  It's all we talk about.  We love you to pieces and have so much to show you. 

Enjoy these last few moments with Mommy and see you soon,

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays: Pilgrim Hat Cookies


Tomorrow is not just my due date, it is also my firm's annual Thanksgiving potluck luncheon.  I have signed up to make one of my favorite holiday dishes, Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Bananas and Brown Sugar.  I figured since by next week Baby A will likely be more of a priority than cooking a turkey dinner, I might as well take this opportunity to cook up my favorite recipe of the season. 

However, when I saw these adorable (and hassle free) cookies, I almost caved and gave up on the whole cooking thing to bring these.  They literally require assembly only and couldn't be more adorable.  For anyone looking for an easy recipe with a great outcome, I think you've found THE ONE!

Recipe Ingredients
•16 chocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
•1 tube orange frosting with piping tips
•16 small peanut butter cups

Recipe Preparation
1.  Place cookies on work surface; squeeze a dime-size dot of frosting in center of each
2.  Unwrap and invert peanut butter cups on frosting, pressing down gently
3.  Using the round piping tip, pipe a "hat-band" with frosting around peanut butter cup and a square "buckle."

 Let frosting set before storing.
If you liked the idea of the recipe but want to add a slightly more homemade touch, here's a great recipe for chocolate wafer cookies...  
 
 
Can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving? 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pink and Green Thursday: You Got to Put on That Party Dress

There is a chill in the air today in New Orleans, and for the first time this fall, it feels like the holiday season is nearing.  There is nothing more fun than planning for the holidays!  With Baby A's arrival on the horizon, I haven't loaded my calendar with holiday parties and open houses, but it hasn't stopped me from web window browsing.  Don't you just love shopping for that perfect holiday party dress?!  I love the look of a simple dress in a great color paired with a sparkly broach or a statement necklace or that perfect pair of jewel toned heels. 

To celebrate with Trish over at Pink Preppy Lilly Lover, I have picked out a few pink and green party dresses that would fill my closet with holiday cheer!


This dress could be dressed up or down, but I love that it would be perfectly appropriate for a work party.  And like it says, it can be worn five ways!!!  So you can get a lot of use out of it without feeling like you're always wearing the same thing.

I love how this dress draws your eye in.  For my body type (I have no waistline), that is essential. 

This dress is the perfect backdrop for a stunner of a statement necklace.  A good dash of sparkle adds such a festive flare to any holiday outfit!
I think Kate Spade is the master of creating a sophisticated but fun party look.  I am in love with the color of this dress!  And the bow is adorable.

This little number just feels like Christmas to me.  I wouldn't pair it with the tights shown here, but I would pair it with the very blingy heels below!!

I hope you have time to hop on over to Pink and Green Thursday!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Week 39: The Bond We've Shared

Dear Baby A,

We are getting to the point in our journey where you could arrive any day now.  While I cannot tell you how excited it makes me to think that we will get to see your perfect little face and hold your sweet little hands sometime soon, there are certainly things about having you in my tummy that I will miss.


Every Tuesday night for the last 34 weeks, right before we go to bed, I read to Daddy an update from Baby Center about how you're are growing inside of me.  Each week we learn about what fruit or vegetable you are similar to in shape, weight, or length.  Before we check on the week's fruit, we go through the progession of weeks and reminisce about just how tiny you once were.  To think we started this lttle weekly routine when you were just a sesame seed is amazing.  You were a blueberry when we told my mommy and daddy about you.  You were a kumquat the week we first saw you and heard your heart beat.  You were a lime when you turned 12 weeks and we got to the point where we could share our good news with the world.  To think that you are now the size of a mini-watermelon is truly amazing. 

Even though it just takes a few minutes to read all about what lies ahead for you in the coming week, that time has become the best part of my week.  I love sharing it with Daddy.  When we read your 39 week update last night, it occurred to me that it could be the last time we do this.  And as excited as I am to meet you, I realized just how much I am going to miss keeping you with me every minute of every day. 

I did not truly understand the bond between a mother and her child until I had the chance to hear the sound of your heartbeat.  To realize that you were growing inside of me was miraculous.  From that moment forward, I felt like your protector and your caretaker.  I wanted nothing but to keep you safe and warm and completely secure.  And just when I start to feel completely uncomfortable, I get a little kick from you, and I think about how much I am going to miss having you in my tummy.  I am going to miss knowing just where you are and being able to shelter you from all of the things that could cause you harm. 

So while I am definitely feeling ready, Baby A, I am also trying to appreciate every moment that we have together, just you and me.  It has truly been the single greatest experience of my life to share the last 39 weeks with you.  Each and every day I find myself wanting to be better and more selfless knowing that you are a part of me. 

I feel so lucky to have had the chance to feel you move and kick and flip and grow.  Even though we have not yet met, I feel like I know every little thing about you.  Now, I cannot wait to share you with Daddy.  There is nothing that makes me happier than to think of seeing him hold you for the first time.  We both love you so much, and we want nothing more than to share that love with you.

Until you are ready to be in our arms, stay warm and cozy Baby A.  We will see you soon!

All the love in the world,

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Voltaggio Brothers' Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples


Did anyone happen to catch The Voltaggios Take On: Thanksgiving on the Cooking Channel? 

It was the first holiday cooking show I have seen this season, and despite the warm November we are having, it got me in the holiday spirit!  I absolutely love this time of year.  Whether we are preparing a big meal here at home, or whether we are spending Thanksgiving in NYC with Mark's family, there is no better way to give thanks than to spend time at a table sharing memories with family and friends. 

Thanksgiving will be a bit different for us this year.  Every other year, we spend Thanksgiving in Manhattan, and this was our year to do so.  Baby A had other plans.  Since Baby A is due November 16th, there is a chance that he or she will be here in enough time for us to have set holiday plans.  If Baby A decides to stay warm and cozy in my tummy for a few extra days, we could be dining on hospital turkey and gravy rather than the Voltaggio's specialties.  So we're already getting a taste of this "play it by ear" life we're about to begin. 

Knowing that my taking part in preparing the Turkey Day feast won't really be an option, I am hoarding all of the delicious recipes I find for Christmas.  I am thinking we'll do a dinner of roasted beef tenderloin, pommes puree, cornbread stuffing, and the Voltaggio's brussels sprouts.

I was certainly not a brussels sprouts fan growing up, but a few years back I tried a perfect version of roasted brussels, and I fell in love.  They still had that strong somewhat bitter taste I remember hating, but the roasting process had allowed them to caramelize and take on a rich and buttery flavor too.  The version the Voltaggios prepared sounds just lovely with the addition of the onions and apples and the smokiness of the bacon.  i think it'll be a real treat and a very colorful addition to our meal. 

If only we didn't have to wait until December to try it!!

Ingredients:

For the sherry-Dijon vinaigrette:
8 1/2 fl. oz. canola oil
6 fl. oz. extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 fl. oz. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste

For the Brussels Sprouts:
2 lb. brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
8 oz. double-smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 green apples, peeled and sliced
3 fresh thyme sprigs
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:To make the vinaigrette, in a blender, combine the canola oil, olive oil, vinegar and mustard and blend until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Salt the water so it tastes like seawater. Fill a large bowl or casserole dish with equal amounts of cold water and ice to create an ice bath.

Add the brussels sprouts to the boiling water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes; do not cook too long or they will lose their bright green color. Remove the brussels sprouts from the water and shock them in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Let the brussels sprouts stand in the ice bath until cool, then remove them and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, about 7 minutes. Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the apples and thyme sprigs. Toss to coat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the blanched brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard.

Drizzle half of the vinaigrette over the brussels sprouts and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Pass the remaining vinaigrette alongside. Serves 4 to 6.

Have you started planning your holiday menus yet?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Got Milk?


For my birthday, my sister gave me one of the best cookbooks I've read in a long time.  If you are someone who enjoys reading a cookbook for its content and not just its recipes, this one's for you.  Baking is indeed a science, and Christina Tosi makes a great science teacher.  It's the perfect cookbook for this time of year when baking just comes naturally.  

The best part - there's an entire section on crack pie.  I sampled some this spring when I visited NYC and it is incredible!!!!!  It's dangerous to think I could have it at my finger tips any time I felt like making it!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

38 Weeks: The Nursery is Complete

Dear Baby A,

This Wednesday, Mommy turned 38 weeks and 31 years old all on the same day.  Daddy and Beignet woke me up and announced that there were several birthday surprises in store for me.  When I went into the kitchen, Daddy had a bouquet of balloons and a bouquet of flowers waiting to greet me.  On the kitchen counter he had two beautifully wrapped gifts.  The first was a Flip camera.  I was so excited to have something that we can use to record all of your special moments.  The second box contained Mommy's push/birthday/likely every other holiday gift - a lovely baby bag.  Daddy was so excited about showering you and me with treasures and with love on my special day. 

Just when I thought I had opened up all of my gifts, Daddy said that we had to go upstairs.  As I walked into your nursery, I found the most wonderful surprise.  Daddy had had a handy man come by and hang up all of your drapes.  He also ordered the chandelier that matched your furniture and had that hung as well.  You wouldn't believe how much those two things make your room come alive.  We spent the next 30 minutes just sitting in your room talking about how excited we are to know that you are going to be joining our family any day now.  I cannot wait to bring you home and sit with you in this special place that Daddy made for us. 
I love the chandelier!!!!

Baby A's bookshelf is already filled with treasures
Baby A's crib

The dresser/changing table

The glider with Beignet standing guard

Baby A's sleep sheep and horsey toy chest

I think the Moses basket will make the perfect place to store stuffed animals!

Quote of the morning from Daddy: "That looks like a nice place to put a dirty diaper."  I love it!  I think it'll be the perfect match to our red stroller!

There's only one more gift left to receive, and that's you little one.  We cannot wait until you arrive!!!  It is all we think about and all we talk about each and every day.  You have the best Daddy in the whole world, and I look forward to the day when we get to celebrate your birth. 

Lots of love, and we'll see you soon!!!!

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays: Tuscan Chickpea Soup


We spent most of the day Sunday preparing low calorie freezable  meals that we could simply defrost and reheat once we bring Baby A home.  I wanted dishes that would be flavorful but that would also help me get on track with Weight Watchers fairly soon after I deliver.  We made a ground turkey and red bean chili, slow cooked pork loin with tomatoes and mushrooms, lentil soup with turkey sausage, and one of my trusty old WW favorites - Tuscan Chickpea Soup.  

I have made this soup several times, and each time I am amazed by how this combination of simple ingredients creates such a filling and delicious soup.  The addition of the balsamic vinegar brings the perfect zing to the dish.  Pair this with some warm crusty bread, and voila!  


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion 
  • garlic cloves, minced 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
  • (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
  • 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 

Preparation

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the water and the next 5 ingredients (water through tomatoes), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
  • Place 2 cups soup in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a bowl. Repeat procedure with 2 cups soup. Return all pureed soup to pan. Stir in the vinegar, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Spoon 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 6 bowls; sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.
Do you have any freezable meals tips or ideas?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weeks 36 and 37 - Traditions

Dear Baby A,

Can you believe you will be here in just a few weeks?!?!  You are going to be arriving just in time for the holidays - Mommy's very favorite time of year.  We have been talking a lot about our plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it has led to many chats about what traditions we have and what traditions we hope to start with you.

You are being born into a family that has a strong sense of tradition.  In fact, just the other day, my mommy shared one of her family's traditions with us.  In her family, the first harvest of the season was tasted by any expecting mothers that year.  My mom and dad saved the first satsuma from their fall crop for me, and after I had the first taste, we all shared in the delicious fruit.  It was such a special tradition to get to experience, and it made me even more excited about continuing and creating traditions with you.

The new tradition Mommy and Daddy have decided to start this Christmas ties into one of my favorite family traditions that has lasted for as long as I can remember.  Each Christmas Eve, my Daddy reads The Polar Express to us, and each and every Christmas it is as beautiful as the first time he read it.  It is truly my favorite moment of the entire holiday season.  We thought that to make that tradition something we could share with you, each Christmas Eve, we will gift to you a silver sleigh bell.  I hope that each year, you will treasure hearing the retelling of the Polar Express and that each year the sound of the silver sleigh bell will provide you with a wonderful sense of love and warmth and holiday cheer.


We truly cannot wait to meet you and hold you and start a lifetime of traditions with you.  It brings us such incredible joy to know that your arrival is just around the corner.  And just in time to give thanks and share the blessings of the holiday season.  I couldn't think of a more perfect gift!

We love you to pieces!!

Mommy and Daddy

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Orleans - My Inspiration for Spontaneity

I would say that spontaneous is certainly not an adjective I would use to describe myself.  I am the kind of person that adds "create to do list" to my to do list.  I like order and consistency and to have a plan for everything.  Lately, with the impending arrival of Baby A, I have been preparing to cope with the realization that certainty and planning may be a thing of the past.

In an attempt to squeeze every minute out of one of our last pre-baby weekends, I prepared an itinerary of  fun Saturday activities.  We would wake up early and head to Cafe du Monde for coffee and donuts.  Then we'd walk over to Anthropologie to pick up a few hostess gifts.  Then we'd go to Orient Expressed to cash in a groupon we had.  Finally, we'd pass by the pumpkin patch in Claiborne and Jefferson to pick up a few festive porch decorations.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum  Quarter.  When we couldn't find a parking spot in the lot behind Cafe du Monde, we decided to park closer to Esplanade.  And it was there that we saw what appeared to be the start of a parade.  We had a choice - we could go to Cafe du Monde, or we could change our plans and see what it was that the McMain marching band was doing lined up along Frenchman Street.

In a first step to embracing the positive side of the unplanned, we chose the latter.  And what we discovered was a beautiful experience that I believe can only exist in a place as special as New Orleans.  The second installment of abstract art exhibits throughout the city, Prospect.2, kicked off on Saturday with a unique concert experience.  Five 50 member marching bands were staged at different locations in the Marigny.  Each had been taught the same composition by R. Luke DuBois.  At 11:30 exactly each band began to march toward Washington Square Park playing the composition.  The drum majors kept the beat with the other four drum majors by listening to rhythmical clicks of a walkie talkie.  Each band met at the park and continued to play the piece in complete harmony.

We followed McMain's band and second lined with a collection of Auburn fans, locals, and a pair of tourists from Australia.  When we arrived at the park and heard the beautiful sound these five bands made as they came together, we were truly moved.  It was such a unique and incredible experience, and it was one we would have missed had we not veered from the plan I had put together.  It was one of those days where you thought to yourself "only in New Orleans."  To think we almost missed it...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Week 35: Walkin' Through New Orleans

Dear Baby A,

Fats Domino once sang, "New Orleans is my home, that's the reason while I'm gone, yes, I'm walkin' to New Orleans."  There's something about that song that I absolutely love.  There were many times when Daddy and I were stuck in the Atlanta airport trying desperately to get back to New Orleans that I would have considered walking just to be on my way home.

About two weeks ago when we suddenly realized your arrival was approaching quicker than we realized, we decided to walk to dinner once a week.  And each time we head out the door, I sing to myself  a slightly different version - "We're walkin' through New Orleans."

So far, we have walked to La Thai and had a spicy meal at one of their outdoor tables.  Last Friday, we had a date night in the courtyard at Martinique Bistro.  It was so romantic and beautifully lit and perfectly delicious!

Mommy and Daddy have been busy making a list of all of the places we cannot wait to take you to.  There are so many charming little spots in our neighborhood that we can walk you to in your fabulous stroller.  It arrived last week, and we practice strolling it around the house.  We can walk you to the park and to the zoo.  We can walk to take a street car ride and we can walk to get groceries.  There's so much to show you and it's all just steps (or pushes) away.

For now, Mommy and Daddy are trying to enjoy each and every moment we have together before you join us.  It's not that we're not looking to share our life with you, but we know that when you arrive, appreciating our time will be harder to do.  So for now, we'll take a little time out each week to walk and talk and dine together.  And all in good time, you'll get to join us on these adventures.

We love you, and we can't wait for the adventures to begin,

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Saltine Cracker Toffee



Yesterday was the final income tax deadline of the 2010 filing year!  Woohooo!!!  As a little October 17th surprise for my colleagues, I decided to put on my apron and whip up a very special treat.  Everyone in my office loves a salty and sweet snack, and I had just seen the perfect recipe on pinterest for such an occasion - Saltine Cracker Toffee. 

I tried this for the first time at a friend's house in Beaufort and could not get over how delicious it was.  The sweet caramel flavor of the toffee blends just perfectly with the saltiness of the cracker.  The chocolate layer adds a nice richness, and I like to sprinkle just a bit of sea salt and toasted almond slivers as a fancy finish.

Given that it was gone by lunch, I think they found it as yummy as I do!  It also makes a fantastic gift, so if you're like me, you'll add it to your pinterest "holiday recipes" board right away!

Saltine Cracker Toffee
C/O Link (plus some adjustments from me)

40 salted saltine crackers or enough to line your pan
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
(optional) 3/4 cup toasted almond slivers
(optional) sea salt to taste
*You can either use salted butter or salted saltines but not both. I used salted crackers and unsalted butter in this one.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Line saltine crackers in a single layer on the cookie sheet.

In a small pot combine sugar and butter and bring to a boil. Once mixture is at a boil, continue boiling for 3 minutes. Mixture should be a deep caramel color. Immediately pour over saltines and spread to cover crackers completely.
Bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes. It will get all bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave and spread in an even layer over toffee layer.  Top with chopped nuts and sea salt, if desired.

 Cool completely and break into pieces.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Week 34: The Who, What, Where, and When

Dear Baby A,

As of today, you are entering your thirty-fifth week!  I assume now that you have lived in my tummy for this long you know a few things about me like the fact that I really like ice cream, I tend to scream and curse when we are watching the Saints play (sorry about that), I spend too much time watching the Real Housewives of any city, and I am someone who likes certainty and planning and control over my world.

That last part is where you come in.  You are teaching me quite a lesson on how I have to let go and let life take its course.  Let's take a look at the who, what, where, and when situation you and I are in as an example.  We'll go backwards though...  Ready...

The When...
Baby A, you are set to arrive in our lives on November 16th.  The planner and the over programmer in me says that that gives us five weekends left and two Saints home games to attend before your arrival.  Ideally, I will spend the next few days filling each and every void of time from now until then with some kind of activity or outing.  I like to have a full calendar set with plans for about a month out.  The idea of a slow weekend is one where we stay in for lunch on a Saturday.  I know this will soon change, but how soon?  Should I wait to make plans for the weekends in November?  Or should we just keep on keeping on and let you join the party at some point?  Oh, the uncertainty of it all makes me feel so anxious!

The Where...
As we get closer to my due date I have started thinking a lot about where I will be when you make the decision that you'd rather live on land than in my tummy.  I have asked myself, while it would make for a cool story, do I want my water to break in Section 631 of the Superdome with two minutes left in the first half and a mile separating me from the car?  Eek?  Or will it break in my chair at the conference I will be attending at the Windsor Court in late October?  That would be very fancy of you.  Will I be on a walk in the park when I feel my first real contraction?  What if I'm in pain and Mark has to run home to get the car?  Where oh where will I be when you are ready to join us here?

The What...
I had a dream a week or two ago that you were a little girl.  I don't really remember much about it, but I know for sure you were a girl.  Until then, I really thought you were a boy.  Now, I have absolutely no idea!  Everyone else is perfectly convinced that because you sit high and centered in my tummy that you are a boy.  We have a closet full of yellow ducky outfits for you when you arrive, and we cannot wait to transition to the pink or the blue soon after that. 

The Who...
The who - Baby A, this is what excites us so much.  We cannot wait to meet you and to get to know you.  I find it so indescribable to think that soon there will be a new person on this earth with a new vision of how it should look and a new perspective on how to have that vision come to life.  Will you be adventurous like Daddy or cautious like me?  Will you be an introvert or an extrovert?  Will you prefer to take charge and lead or sit back and participate?  What will you be passionate about?  What foods will you love?  What will be your favaorite color?  Will you see the world through rose colored glasses?  Will you love the excitement of big cities or prefer the slow pace of the country?  Will you dance to the beat of your own drum? 

The thing is Baby A that we will love you no matter who you are.  You can sky dive or you can wait until the second the red hand goes away to cross the street.  You can be painfully shy or outrageously outgoing.  You can be president of the student body and captain of the basketball team or you can be the member of every club on campus.  You can be passionate about the Saints or passionate about Dungeons and Dragons.  You can love every food under the sun or just stick to chicken and green peas.  You can see the glass half full or half empty.  You can love Manhattan like me or camping on the beach like Daddy. 

Or, Baby A, you can find all of these categories too narrow and rigid for your own liking and pick up a drum stick and create your own rhythym to life.  You can define who you are and what you like and how you want to live your life.  Just know that no matter what, we will always be your biggest fans.  We will love you no matter where on life's spectrum you fall.  You are ours, and you are perfect.  And we cannot wait to take this journey with you.

P.S.  Mommy can feel your hiccups now.  You're already sort of standing on your head, Mommy shouted Boo! to you last night, and you're too little for a spoonful of sugar.  I don't know how to cure them for you, so I hope they're not a bother.

We love you to pieces,

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Candy Corn Fudge


I think candy corn falls into the same candy bucket as swedish fish, licorice, or Peeps.  You either love it or you hate it.  And by love it, I mean you consume it by the handful.  Growing up, I loved candy corn.  I now find it a little too sweet, but seeing it and tasting it always brings back such great memories of the coming of fall that I find myself nibbling on a handful of it before I've had a chance to realize just how sweet it is. 

I have seen several Fall inspired posts recently that talked about candy corn, and it seems everyone is finding themselves munching on this irresistible treat.  When I saw this recipe for Candy Corn Fudge, I thought it was too appropriate not to post.  I think it would make the perfect treat to bring to a party or to work.  How festive is this fudge!!

Candy Corn Fudge
Ingredients

1 7-oz. jar marshmallow cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups candy corn (about 12 oz.)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
 1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped, optional
1 ounce white chocolate, chopped, optional

Preparation
1. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil; butter foil. Combine marshmallow cream, sugar, evaporated milk and butter in a large, heavy pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 235°F on a candy thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and stir in candy corn, chocolate chips and peanuts, stirring until chocolate melts. Immediately transfer to foil-lined pan and smooth top until even. Chill until set, at least 2 hours.

3. In separate bowls over pans of simmering water, melt semisweet and white chocolate, if desired. Using forks, drizzle both chocolates over fudge. Cut fudge into squares.

Are you a candy corn addict? 

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