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.


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

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

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? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Inspirations

While the cool front we experienced last weekend did not stick around long, the fact that we are already one week into October makes me very ready for fall.  I have had a bit more time this week to get to read everyone's posts (although I am STILL having trouble commenting on many of them), and I have been so inspired by all of the lovely Autumnal  offerings from this week's google reader.  I thought I'd share a few of my favorites...  Just click on the title to take you to the details of the original post!

I love that the recipe calls for rosemary.  I've had a few mocktails lately that incorporated fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary and cilantro and they're so refreshing!  I think this is a must-make once Baby A arrives.

There are not many flavors that pair better than apples, cinnamon, and sugar.  Throw in some butter, and I'm in heaven!  My mom LOVES apple pie, and her birthday is right around the corner.  I saw this recipe and could not believe how perfect it will be for her birthday dessert!
I love walking past the houses in our neighborhood and seeing pumkins and haystacks on their porches.  This picture is just what I want ours to look like!

Saving the best for last inspired me to think of five things I would like to accomplish this fall.  I have sort of set aside goal setting with the excuse that the baby is due in six short weeks, but I am someone who works better with a to do list and a set of goals.  So here goes:
  1. To have a porch that looks like the one pictured above
  2. To create a fun Halloween costume for Mark and me (Beignet is going as a Lady Pug, and I want to be a 1960's housewife and the milkman)
  3. To completely decorate at least ten more shoes for Muses
  4. To bake cinnamon rolls from scratch
  5. To relax a little and enjoy the last stretch of the road we are taking on the journey to meet Baby A.  The photo featured above makes me hope that I can settle down my nesting instincts and see the beauty of the seasons changing around me.  I want for the next six weeks to be filled with amazing memories of Mark and me appreciating each other and our life together so that we can welcome Baby A into a rested and happy home.
Happy Fall Yall!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week 33: A Day For Baby A

Dear Baby A,

You are scheduled to arrive into our world just six weeks from today.  Can you believe it?!  I honestly cannot.  Last week I started panicking because we didn't have everything ready for your impending arrival.  I know we have time left, but things have gone so quickly that I know I will blink and you will be here in my arms.

Since Daddy had his day off last Wednesday, I used my last vacation day to spend the day with him.  It was a day we set aside just for you, Baby A.  We went to Mommy's doctor and learned that you are growing just as you should be.  We got to hear your little heart beating.  It is a sound that we could hear all day without it ever growing old.  It is such an amazing reminder that you are growing inside my tummy!!

From there, we went to Babies R Us and purchased the two biggest items we had left on our list of things we needed for you - a mattress and a monitor.  Mommy had been so nervous about committing to each of these because there's so much research out there about which one is best that it's hard to make a choice.  With Daddy's help (he has such a level head!) we found just the right ones for us.  We also got you some diapers and diaper cream and wipes.  We ordered a Sophie doll for you too!  It is every baby's favorite toy, and we can't wait for you to love it.

We ended the day by meeting your pediatrician, Dr. Brown.  She was so incredibly sweet and patient and excited to meet you.  It was so comforting to meet someone that will care about your well being as much as we do.

Daddy and I couldn't have had a better day.  Thirty three weeks ago I would have defined a perfect day with Daddy as one that combined a street car ride, a walk through the Quarter, a boozy lunch, and a nap.  Now, I would say that the perfect day with Daddy is one spent getting ready for you.

We hope you keep growing bigger and stronger, and we look forward to meeting you in six short weeks!

Lots of love little one,

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tasty Tuesdays: Fennel Gratin

These past few days, the weather here in New Orleans hinted at the start of fall - my absolute favorite time of year.  I love everything about fall!  I love the cool crisp air and the pumpkins that have started to pop up on people's porches.  I love pumpkin spice lattes, and oversized sweaters.  But most of all, I love that fall brings me a renewed desire to spend lots of time in the kitchen.  I love to open a window and let the outside air creep in as I begin to roast and stew and bake. 

 I found this recipe for a fennel gratin and decided it will be on my menu for dinner this week.  I absolutely love cooking with fennel.  In the spring, I favor using them in raw form as a crunchy addition to salads, and in the fall, I love roasting them.  I have never tried them like this though.  It sounds perfectly rich and delicous.

Fennel Gratin
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tbsp. butter, cubed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1⁄2 cups hot chicken stock
2 tbsp. heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange fennel in a 10" baking dish, and scatter butter and garlic around fennel. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add hot stock and bake until tender and browned, about 1 1/2 hours.
2. Preheat broiler. Spoon cream over fennel, sprinkle nutmeg over cream, then sprinkle fennel with parmigiano-reggiano. Broil until golden, about 1 minute.
Do you cook with fennel? What's your favorite fall dish?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weeks 31 and 32: The Cure to Nesting: A Baby Parisian Shower

Dear Baby A,

Week 31 brought with it all of the anxiety of a full on nesting phase.  Mommy starting making list after list of to dos and things needed.  Being the accountant that I am, they are all in excel, and there is a tab for layette needs, hospital bag needs, diaper bag needs, etc.  There's even a schedule that reflects pre-k 2 programs that we have applied to and where we are in the application process.  Yes, you read that right: pre-k 2 program applications!!!

 If I'm being honest, there were a few nights where Mommy had mini-breakdowns that included child-like sobs and Mommy saying, "We're going to have a naked baby that lives in a dresser drawer."  Mommy may sound a little crazy, but I promise you that I've read its totally normal.  We just want to make sure everything is just right for your arrival.  The best cure I have found to the nesting woes is a fabulous baby shower thrown by Mommy's sister and good friends!

Five very lovely ladies put together the most amazing baby shower a girl could ever ask for!  They chose a Parisian theme, and they had every little detail just perfect.   From the intimate setting at Clever Wine Bar, to the gorgeous floral arrangements, and the amazingly delicious food displays, they could not have put together a more perfect day.

Le Bar

Clever Wine Bar put together a menu of champagne cocktails: Kir Royales, Mimosas, and Bellinis.  They had a special mocktail ready for me too!

 Cheers to Baby A!

Le Boulangerie 
Chicken salad on croissants.  Mmmmm.....

Mini quiches and mixed green salad.

Le Charcuterie and Fromagerie
A fabulous assortment of meats and cheeses

Le Patisserie
The dessert selection included raspberry cream tarts, chocolate mousse cups, Nutella crepes, Madeleine cookies

Le Gelateria
and there was also the salted butter caramel ice cream

Le Fleur
Trish and Melanie should go into business together as florists!  The arrangements they put together were breath taking and reminded me of the various flower markets we strolled by in Paris.

The girls asked all of the guests to leave a little note with detailing their favorite travel memory for me to share with Baby A.  I love reading through them and planning future family vacations.

There are not enough ways to thank these lovely hostesses.  They made my shower so incredibly special.  It's one of those days that feels slightly surreal.  There I was preparing for the arrival of Baby A.  I feel like I was just celebrating my bridal shower!  It was such a special day that I will remember forever.  The thought and detail that they put into making it so perfect makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world!


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