Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mash Up - Year End Edition

None of this has to do with the end of the year, it just happens to be New Year's Eve.

I told Greg earlier tonight that if I went into labor tonight I wasn't going to the hospital until the Christmas tree was down. Boom. Tree is nicely tucked away and ornaments are packed up. Not like it matters, but just in case I guess!

That came on the heels of all the people giving me crazy terrified looks and making comments about me going into labor while we were out in town today. I know our waiter from lunch was glad to see us go, because he was a little freaked out when he asked how much longer I had and I told him a week and a half. I really think he was afraid I'd go into labor in his section and have the baby in five minutes or something.

I can't believe I'm going to tell this next story.

Kaycie is spending the weekend at her grandparents' house so Greg and I could have a nice quiet weekend off before MicroTot arrives and everything crashes for a while. Being two young, energetic, fun loving people with no toddler to tie us down, how did we spend our Friday night of freedom? We went to bed before 8pm and watched some movies. First up was Cowboys & Aliens, which we turned off an hour in. We were both expecting something more Independence Day than Alien, and I don't do well with the jump out and grab you thriller kind of stuff. So instead we turned on Warrior, which is a very long, somewhat depressing, but quite good movie about estranged brothers who face each other in a big MMA fight. After that it was getting late and Greg said something about turning on the Smurfs movie because he was pretty sure it would be bad and we wouldn't care if we fell asleep during it.

At this point I'm not paying a lot of attention to what he was doing. He turns on a movie, which opens with a guy selling pot to a police officer and some foul language. I looked up and say, "Did they just say "sh*t" in the Smurfs????" Greg nearly died laughing. It wasn't the Smurfs, it was My Idiot Brother (which is most definitely not PG). For the rest of the movie there were assorted comments such as "Did they just show a naked woman in the Smurfs???" It even carried over into today. This wouldn't have been nearly as funny except I didn't even blink at the fact the guy was selling marijuana to a cop, just at the language!

Greg is not allowed to pick out the movies tonight. I can't decide between Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Thor, or Water for Elephants. How much should I make him suffer?

I miss my baby girl, but it's nice to have some down time where I'm not being told "Sit DOWN, Mama," "Play trains!" or "Cook with Kaycie!" It was nice to have a meal at a restaurant that doesn't have a mascot then do some browsing type shopping at more than one store. Kaycie, meanwhile, hasn't missed us at all. She's playing with her BFF Robin at my parents' house and getting spoiled rotten. Instead of my future sister-in-law bringing her home tomorrow I called Mom earlier and told her to just keep a while longer and we'd come get her. We should be able to work in another late-sleeping morning, another meal at a restaurant, and a little more shopping at Dogwood before we head up there tomorrow night. Here's hoping the labor thing doesn't start during the brief time I'm two hours from my hospital! That would be a very uncomfortable drive back.

Happy New Year, peeps. I need to ring out 2011 by organizing a few more things in the nursery and cleaning out some boxes stored in the bedroom. Because we're wild and crazy party goers without our kid this weekend. Greg did mention we could probably go to Walmart at 11:30 and not have to fight a crowd...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MicroTot Update - 37 Weeks

I've dilated to half a centimeter. It's a personal record for me...

What does it mean? Not much right now. He's got his head down, which is good, and Dr. T said that dilating on my own would make it easier for me during delivery. If I actually make some reasonable progress then I won't have to be admitted to the hospital the night before they induce, which would be super awesome since I do have a 2 year old at home to deal with. The fewer overnights at the hospital, the better.

As for everything else, the little guy appears to have gained a few ounces, up to 7lb 6oz (we were right at 7 last week, all just an estimate) and passed all of his sonogram tests easily again. He was practice breathing the whole time. And right about the time Dr. T asked if I'd had any contractions I was having one, so at least that's happening a couple of times a day (happened with K too, so I don't get too excited about it).

Where does that leave us? On track to induce on Jan 11. As much as I wold have loved to have given birth today, it's not going to happen and that's ok. That was a fairly selfish dream involving insurance deductables, tax deductions, and my own level of discomfort. The important thing is to have a fully baked kid. Two more weeks.


Dear Medical Assistant in Charge of Taking OB Vitals:

I'm 37 weeks pregnant with my second child. Not only do you not have to give me directions to the potty, I don't need detailed instructions on how to pee in a cup. I have that figured out.


Post-Holiday Mashup - Best Gifts Edition

We didn't do a whole lot of giving and receiving of material stuff this year. We didn't have the extra cash, and a lot of the people we normally exchange gifts with didn't have a lot of cash. I made some things for some awesome people and of course we bought for the kids in the family, but that was about it. Frankly, I was ok with that arrangement. It took a lot of stress off of me in a year I couldn't handle much to start with. And we've all kinda gotten to a place where if we really want something we buy it for ourselves, so I really didn't need anything.

But material stuff aside, I got a lot of great gifts. Mainly, help and rest!

Last week my mom came to visit. She was planning to stay one night, keep Kaycie during our doc appointment on Wednesday, and help me straighten up a little around the house since we were having our family Christmas here on Friday. Clearly she didn't realize how much help I needed with that, because by Wednesday afternoon, when it was time for her to leave, she called and told everybody she was staying another night to help me get a little more done. People, my mother cleaned my bathrooms. I've gotten big and uncomfortable enough that cleaning the tub and floors is nearly impossible, and I'm not happy being surrounded by bathroom cleaner fumes anyway, so the bathrooms haven't gotten a good cleaning since before Thanksgiving. I was afraid I was going to have to rent a port-a-potty for our guests. Between cleaning the bathrooms, helping me organize a few things in the kitchen, and entertaining Kaycie, it was a very awesome gift.

Meanwhile, Wednesday afternoon I get a text from Greg that his 2pm appointment was a setup. His office threw him another diaper shower. You know what the only really big things we still needed for MicroTot was? Diapers. I unloaded everything yesterday and couldn't believe how many there were. We're pretty set for a little while. Whew. Merry Christmas to us!

Friday night my family all converged at my house for Christmas. Now this may not sound like a good thing, but I declared myself unwilling to travel after Thanksgiving so not having to drive two hours and spend a weekend away from home was fantastic. It was just my parents and my brother with his family, so six adults and four kids total. The kids had a fantastic time and everybody was perfectly happy to eat take out BBQ and pizza, so no cooking and very little post-celebration cleaning for me. Whew. Very low stress holiday.

Saturday Greg's parents came. Again, you'd think this would create more stress, but ohhhh no. They're awesome. Terry brought all the food for two days, cooked dinner, and cleaned the kitchen while Don played with Kaycie and then helped Santa get everything put together for Sunday. Sunday morning they were there for the big Santa reveal, Terry made breakfast and lunch. We spent most of the day either eating or opening gifts and then I got to take a nap while Terry cleaned up and put all the food away. By this point I'm getting a little spoiled.

So yesterday I had to get back in the groove. Everybody was gone, the holidays over, and it was just Kaycie and I all day. School doesn't start back for another week. We had made the best of it and I was just getting into my afternoon funk of discomfort and pain when my phone rings. It's my brother's fiance with a proposition. They're going to my parents' house this weekend and want to pick Kaycie up on the way and take her to spend the weekend with her grandparents so Greg and I can have a couple of days to rest up and spend together before MT arrives.


The gifts just keep coming...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas from the Hall Family!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crazy Things Keep Happening...

So yeah, post number 3 today. Because the day gets weirder as I go along...

First I'm having a generally crappy day, then I feel bad about whining because my cousin died and frankly that sucks for her family a whole lot more than anything else that's happened to me today.

So I end up up in Home Depot with my whiny kid, late for lunch and naps because I wanted to pick up a couple of things I needed to finish some projects while she napped. The plan was 10 minutes or less in Home Depot, grab some lunch on the way home, feed the kid and put her down for naps hopefully no more than 30 minutes late.

Except I ring up all of my stuff at the self checkout and realize I don't have my wallet. I stuck it in her diaper bag yesterday when we went to the zoo so I didn't have to take my purse in. And of course I didn't grab her diaper bag when we left today because I was going to spend less than 10 minutes in Home Depot, grab some lunch and run back home.

Let's add in the whiny toddler who MUST HAVE the new measuring tape I had to pick up because she broke my other one yesterday. Except now I can't pay for it, so I have to take it away from her and she is already hungry and tired. You can picture how well that went over.

Anyway, I walk up to the attendant to see if she can clear the register where I rang everything up and hold my stuff until I can run home to get my wallet and come back, whiny toddler and all. Frankly, all I wanted to do was sit in the floor and cry with my kid.

While I'm waiting the attendant is having a conversation with the woman in line who apparently has become a regular since her house burned down earlier this year. She's waiting on something so I butt into the conversation, trying to talk over my crying child, to explain what happened. In the middle of that the desk phone rings so the attendant asks me to wait and the lady in line starts asking me about my little predicament. I explain what happened and why my child is screaming and that I just need to run home and get my wallet.

Yes, the lady in line in front of me, whose house burned to the ground earlier this year, paid for my $20 worth of stuff that was so very much not urgent so that I wouldn't have to go through the inconvenience.

I insisted that it wasn't necessary, but she said she'd been blessed by other people when her house burned and wanted to share with others.

So, I'm bummed because I'm at the end of a healthy pregnancy, my mom is awesome and alive, and I have a perfectly good house that's still standing? I think somebody in this house needs an attitude adjustment, and I think it's me.

To make it better, the diaper bag with my wallet was in the van the entire time. We never took it in yesterday.  Ever feel like God puts you in a place to learn a lesson?

Did I Say That Out Loud?

Ummm. You know how in my last post I was whining about inconsequential things and started out saying I knew things could get worse?

I just got a message that one of my cousins, a breast cancer survivor who had battled metastasis to her brain and bones for more than ten years, died last night.

I last saw her at her son's wedding in Memphis this summer and she was carrying an oxygen tank and looked terrible. I guess it was a matter of time, but days before Christmas?  That hurts my heart for her husband and kids.

Technical Difficulties

I'd ask if this day could get worse, but I know it can.

I'm a wee bit frustrated today. First, my mom left this morning after staying an extra day to help me clean house and chase my kid. She's awesome. As in "cleaned our bathrooms while we were at the doc yesterday" awesome. Cause I can't bend over enough to clean the tub or the floors and both bathrooms were beyond the point where I'd want anybody to walk into them.

Did I mention I'm hosting Christmas for both sides of the family this year due to my decision to not travel anymore until the baby arrives? Yeah. That would not only my parents, but my brother, his fiance, her three kids on Friday; then my inlaws who are spending the night on Saturday to be here for Christmas on Sunday, along with the return of my parents on their Santa-Tour Sunday. That's a lot of extra people visiting my nasty bathrooms/kitchen/living room this weekend. But Mom hooked me up, which was beyond the call of duty. Just saying.

Anyway, that wasn't the point. Mom left very early this morning, which left Kaycie very very sad. Add the nasty weather to the mix and I knew she was going to have a rough, whiny day. Indeed, she cried because she couldn't get the Christmas tree lights on, then cried because I helped her turn them on. Sigh. She's refused to eat and wants to do nothing but watch Curious George. Whatever.

Next, my Yahoo mail account was hacked last night and lots of emails went out that may contain a virus. Lovely. I've been meaning to ditch that account anyway due to Yahoo's desire to make me completely reset my password every two weeks by telling me that I "forgot" the password that I'd had for six years and had saved in cookies (GAH!). However, I've the account so long and had so many other accounts linked to it to that it seemed like a daunting task so I kept putting it off. Today was the last straw, so I started moving stuff to Gmail. That was frustrating in itself. Then I realized my Flickr account is a Yahoo product, so I can't exactly 'move' that (although I moved the notifications). Then I couldn't get my new Google account to sync to my phone (still not working). Then I had to reset some other log in info on my phone to reflect the new email (Facebook...) and then... Well, it's been a pain. Add a grumpy child to the mix and it's been a bad morning.
So I give up for the moment and decide to finish up the very last of my Christmas baking. I have everything done for gifts for tomorrow night except the truffles. Knowing I had saved the recipe here on the blog, I pulled it up and searched for "truffles." Apparently I'd disabled the search feature on my blog. What???? Ok, fine. I dink with it a while and get it tuned back on. I search for "truffles." No posts found. Now, not only did I know that I posted it, but I knew I tagged it as truffles and as gifts. So I searched for "gift." Nothing. I finally start scrolling back through my posts, knowing it wasn't far back, and find it. The word truffle is not only tagged, but it's all over the post. Why the heck wouldn't it find it??? I dunno. But I'm frustrated with the blog now.

With that said, I've got the first step of the truffles done and chilling in the fridge until nap time. I have most of my accounts moved from Yahoo, although I can't actually get the emails on my phone. I can't actually delete my Yahoo account because of Flickr, but at least I can ignore it. Now I have to figure out what to do with the whining kid on a yucky day when I need to be finishing up the cleaning and running a couple of errands. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

36 Weeks - (Not So) Shocking Developments

So today I went back to the doc for my weekly appointment and they were not only doing a sonogram but "checking" me for the first time.

Sonogram shows he's about 7lbs, which is right on track. He passed all his tests during the sonogram (movement, practice breathing, fluid, etc). The movement test wasn't a problem, he was fighting the sono tech the whole time.

Turns out my doc was delivering her second baby of the day and it had turned into a C-Section, so we were given the choice to wait forever or to see one of the other docs that I didn't know. I chose the other doc. He checked and me to see if we had made any progress at this point.

Anybody want to guess on how that turned out?

I suppose to put a silver lining on it I should say that I'm dilated as far as I was when I was admitted to the hospital with Kaycie.

On the down side, that would be exactly zero centimeters.

I told Greg that my hopes for Dec 28 were dwindling and we might as well suck it up and accept the fact that we'll be having this kid on January 11. Which is fine. He'll be pretty much fully cooked by then and at least we'll have the plan in place for somebody to take care Kaycie and everybody else who plans to be there can make arrangements.

But I was really really hoping to have this kid in 2011 and be home before the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Honey Glazed Roasted Almonds

I found it. The roasted almonds I'd been looking for. These are going in my Christmas goodie boxes for my mom and sister-in-law-to-be. If there are any left. And I apologize to those I've already given stuff to that didn't get any. You really should have, because these are awesome.

Honey Glazed Almonds 

2 c. whole almonds, skins on 
1/4 c. sugar 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 tsp cinnamon or chili powder (optional, depending on the flavor you want!)
2 tbsp. honey 
2 tbsp. water 
2 tsp. almond or vegetable oil

Spread the almonds in a single layer in a shallow ungreased baking pan and place in a cold oven. Bake at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until the internal color of nuts is tan (12 to 15 minutes). Remove from oven and set aside.Thoroughly mix the sugar, salt and either cinnamon or chili powder (if you choose). Stir together the honey, water and oil in a medium size pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the roasted almonds and continue to cook and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed by the nuts (about 5 minutes or less, don't let it burn). Immediately transfer to a medium bowl and sprinkle sugar mixture over all and toss. Spread on wax paper and cool.

Nom. Nom some more. Then nom again... Make more. Nom...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nursery Revisted (and a Blog Exclusive)

Lest you think MicroTot is being totally neglected, based on this post of his nursery, I wanted to assure you that I've made some progress and he's getting his own home makeover. Instead of the bright flowers and colors of my shower curtain art for Kaycie's nursery, MT is going to get to live in a jungle. Which I find nothing short of appropriate. I haven't finished everything and I'm not sure what else to do with some areas, but here's part of what I've got done:

Decals around the crib and the lion mirror attached. I haven't moved the mattress up yet, but it has monkey sheets on it instead of being full of Christmas gifts and junk! :)

MT's new chest of drawers (which is FULL) and his Mickey Mouse car seat, which obviously won't be staying in the nursery! There's also a closet full of his new clothes instead of stuff Kaycie has outgrown. Ignore everything else in the closet, I'm still working on some storage issues for the stuff in the floor and the shelf.

Didn't find any shower curtain art this time, but my mom bought me some canvas prints for the wall! I've also got to find a lamp for his shelves, but I'll get to that eventually. Would love something else to go on the wall (above the line of decals) on both this short wall and above the crib, but I don't know what that'll be.

And because while going back to get the links for the top of this post I realized that I did a blog exclusive at 35 weeks with Kaycie, I figured it was time to go ahead and do one for MicroTot. I may post some of the other nursery pics to FB, but this one won't be revealed until after he arrives. We've already told quite a few people who've asked, I just haven't offered it up to the general public yet!


Thursday, December 15, 2011


So I figured tomorrow I would start the 1 month countdown to MicroTot's due date, January 16. But yesterday Dr. T informed us that due to my age she didn't want me to go full term and we should go ahead and look at dates to induce the week before. We settled on January 11, so I guess the countdown is already underway. Less than a month to go.

We also talked about the fact that the nausea has returned, although not as bad as usual for me. She mentioned that this was usually a sign of "the end" and suggested I may go before then.

The next question of course is whether or not I'll dilate on my own this time. She'll start checking for that next week which will give us a better idea of what to expect. Thankfully I made a big dent in getting the nursery ready this week, so if he does get a wild hair to come earlier than the 11th I'm slightly more prepared! Now if I can just get the rest of my house cleaned...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Little Pre-Christmas Sanity Check

Yes, I said I wasn't going to be posting much more this week, but this ten minutes of peace were brought to you by a new wooden train set that my little curly headed kid thinks is awesome.

What? I was supposed to hoard all new toys until Christmas???

Nah. To be honest, Kaycie is only getting a couple of things from us this year, and one bigger things (a play kitchen) from Santa. But she'll get plenty from grandparents and other assorted family members. She'll get bombarded with toys over a 2-3 day period and will probably be too overwhelmed to figure out what to play with as it is.

Today we picked up this little inexpensive off brand wooden train track set because she's really digging the trains around our house right now (and I had a $5 coupon). I asked Greg if he thought we should save it for Christmas or go ahead and get it for her. His response? "Is she going to have a shortage of toys at Christmas?"


But I may have a shortage of sanity in the meantime.

Poof. That's when the brilliant plan hit. Give her the train today and use it as a tool to get some things done over the next two weeks! I can make fudge without help because she's choo-chooing. I can blog because she's choo-chooing. I might can sort out some baby stuff and wash some new baby clothes because she's choo-chooing. I can sit and breathe without being used as a Mama-gym for a few minutes... because she's choo-chooing. That's worth way more than what we paid for the train. And it'll get more use in the next two weeks than it would after Christmas when it's competing with a dozen other shiny new things.

Meanwhile, I'm having some seriously freaky flashbacks to the days when my godson Edwin was about her age and totally Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed. He played with a very similar set (only with the very specific Thomas character trains!) for YEARS. I wonder if this is a point in his favor as to which of the Emmer boys she'll end up marrying. Ian has been in the lead for a long time...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mash Up - Mocha Monday Edition

I really need today to be mocha Monday. I keep falling asleep on my feet. Damn you, sugar restricted diet.

Last Thursday when I talked to my mom and told her what we still needed for the baby I told her I had 3 0-3 month footie pajamas. Last night after I finished going through all the hand me downs and stuff I pulled out of storage from Lauren, I have 14 footie pajamas in 0-3 months. I went from no blankets to 7 fuzzy blankets and 8 receiving blankets. I went from no bibs to half a dresser drawer full of bibs. My current list of things I need has gotten very, very short.

My kid is walking circles around the kitchen singing Twinkle Twinkle. It's hysterical. I need to get that on video because she sings way better than I do. And her rendition of Jingle Bells is awesome. And the ABC song. And Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" is pretty entertaining.

Speaking of my kid, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that her favorite food at the moment is ramen noodles. I don't know how that happened. She'd never had any until a couple of weeks ago and now she loves it. She ate next to nothing all weekend so I made us both a pack of ramen to share this morning and she ate most of it. I dunno.

My mom is at her oncologist as we speak getting her last PET scan read and (fingers crossed) being told she doesn't have to come back every six months anymore. After 5 years, that's some serious good news to get. And then we're going shopping to whittle a few more items off that list I mentioned earlier. She's been very anxious to go shopping for the little guy!

My sweet husband, who was so supportive of my sugar restricted diet when I was preggers with Kaycie, looked at me yesterday and said, "It wouldn't kill us to have some chocolate in the house..." HA! So I bought him some chocolate and the last ingredient I needed to make him some fudge. And I splurged and bought myself some almonds to roast and some Chex to make party mix. Figure if I have some reasonable seasonal snacks I won't be quite so tempted by the chocolate!

Speaking of my husband, we had this conversation over text this morning:
Me: My flat iron died. I'm planning the memorial service right now.
Greg: Stay calm. Do they still make the one you use? We have a $10K emergency fund for times like these.
Me: I have no idea, I haven't had to look at them since before we were married!
Greg: Do I need to come home?
Me: YES! And stop by Walmart to get me a flat iron. I have to go shopping with Mom this afternoon...

I need to go get some things done before my fam arrives. I know I've been a posting fool this weekend, but don't expect that trend to continue. :) Have a good week, peeps.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Happys #4 - Spice Mixes

Last one! This was a special gift I made just for my BFF Sharonda. She's recently discovered how easy it is to make taco soup. It seems like every time I've seen her in the past two months we've been in the store getting taco seasoning  and ranch dressing packets to make soup! So, for her special Christmas happy, I made her some homemade seasoning mixes of each. I love these recipes because I can use considerably less salt than the store bought mixes and with the taco seasoning I can control the heat by keeping it pretty mild in the mix and adding a little red pepper or chili powder as I use it (or not, depending on who I'm feeding!). The taco mix is the one I've been using for a while at home.

I haven't actually used the ranch mix before, so I can't promise it's good (Update - Sharonda said it was yummy and she used all of it over Christmas!) If it's not I found at least a dozen different versions I can try. This one was a combo of some different ones, and it makes a lot. I filled that jar and another smaller jar. It would be easy to half or third this recipe for a smaller amounts. You can get close on the amounts that don't divide equally.

Ranch Dressing Mix

1 1/3 cup dried parsley
5 Tbsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp onion powder
2/3 cup dried minced onion
1 Tbsp dried dill
1/2 tsp black pepper
2/3 cup buttermilk blend powder

Mix everything but the buttermilk powder together and run through a food processor or blender (I used my little mini-chopper) to make a more powdery consistency. Add buttermilk powder and stir together. Store in air tight container.

3 Tbsp = 1 packet of mix

Salad dressing - In a small bowl, whisk 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup plus 6 Tbsp buttermilk and 3 tablespoons mix. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  

Ranch dip - In a small bowl, combine 2 cups (16 oz) sour cream and 3 tablespoons mix. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Taco Seasoning Mix

1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup chili powder
3 Tbsp salt (feel free to use less, I usually do)
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes or 1/2 Tbsp ground red pepper
2 tsp beef bullion
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Mix, stir, store in air tight container.

2 Tbsp = 1 packet of mix

To make taco meat - add 2 Tbsp mix plus 1/3 cup of water for each pound of ground beef.

I bought the jars at Kroger on sale for like $1.50 each. I had some other spice jars I'd planned to use but the mouths were too small to actually dip a tablespoon into them, so I decided to get some wide mouth jars. Since both recipes call for measurements in tablespoons, I included a Tbsp measuring cup from the sets I got at Fred's. I printed the tags with the amount to use and the recipes I included under each mix. I also put the ratio to make 1 packet on the label for easy reference, since I knew she'd be using it to replace "packets" in the taco soup recipe.

Whew. I think that covers everything I've made (so far) for this holiday season. I'd love to fill up a dozen tins with fudge and spiced almonds and caramel filled truffles... sigh. If I start making that stuff I'll go broke and then scarf half of it before it ever sees a tin. Maybe next year I can do a combo of gifts in a jar and baking. I'd like to try some soup mixes in a jar next year too!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Happy #3 - Apple Butter and Dessert Sauces

 I really shouldn't give away all my secrets. The people I gave these little gifts to today are totally going to feel cheated when they realize how easy they are to make...

First up, Apple Butter. This was actually my second batch and I won't lie, it wasn't as good as the first. This goes to show how flexible you need to be for this recipe. I did mine in the crock pot, no mess, no burning, crazy easy.

The hardest part of this recipe is figuring out the apples. I try to use three different types to get a better flavor, but you also have to understand that even the same type of apples will have different levels of sweetness at different times. The first batch I made was made mostly from some awesome Fuji apples along with about three or four honeycrisp and a handful of red delicious that were hanging out in my fridge and needed to be used up. This was during peak apple season and they were fabulously sweet and crunchy and yum. The apple butter was declared perfect tasting by my in-laws, who should know considering they are experts.

The second batch I decided to do the same routine, but found the apples a little hard to locate. Apparently peak apple season is short or I just had exceptionally bad timing at Kroger, but they had no Fuji apples out in the bin. I did grab a couple of honeycrisp, a couple of ambrosia, and found the very last 5lb bag of Fuji in with the bags of red delicious. Unfortunately, as I started chopping and sampling I quickly realized that none of these apples were anywhere near as sweet and tasty as the previous batch. I ended up increasing the sweetner but the butter still turned out not quite sweet enough for me. I should have added more honey. You just never know, it depends your apples. Based on that, here's the best I can do for a recipe.

5-6lbs apples (different kinds)
1/3- 1 1/2 cups honey (depending on sweetness of apples, you can taste it toward the end and add more if necessary)
1 Tbsp ground cinamon
2 tsp allspice
optional - nutmeg and cloves can also be added, I think I used nutmeg in the second batch

Peel, core and roughly chop apples into your slow cooker until full. For my 5 quart cooker this took about 5 1/2 - 6lbs of apples. Smaller cookers will require less. Add all other ingredients, stir as best you can. Cook on high for 1 hour then turn to low for 9-11 hours. Stir occasionally (or not, whatever) Remove lid and cook for an additional 1-2 hours to thicken. Stir with a whisk periodically to break up the remaining bits. For a smooth butter, process in a blender or food processor in batches. I canned mine in half pint jelly jars (sterilized and hot on the counter) to seal. It's fine in the cabinet but refrigerate after opening.

I made labels, printed out a couple of recipes I found online that used apple butter (in case people didn't want to eat it like jam on toast or biscuits) and attached with a ribbon.

I'll be honest, part of this project was simply to stay away from baking things I'd want to scarf that aren't on my low sugar pregnancy diet. But at the last minute I tempted myself with hot fudge and a caramel sauce. I did lick the spoon right before I dumped it in the sink with the hot fudge. That was it. I got the rest canned before I could stick my face in it.  Here is the link to the original caramel sauce recipe that I ended up using (the one I had planned to use involved the mixer and I didn't feel like digging it out) and the hot fudge sauce which was super easy. I made of few adjustments, of course, so here are the final versions I used. However, the caramel sauce link is very very important because she makes some important points about why you should use a big, heavy bottomed pot and how to adjust for other types of pans and the fact that melting sugar is hotter than boiling water so be careful and don't do this with a toddler under foot!

Caramel Sauce

2 cups sugar (I used an organic granulated cane sugar, but white or brown works fine)
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla

Get all ingredients together, ready to use and close to the stove. The process moves fast and the sauce will burn. Have hot pads close by too. Heat on medium high heat in a 3 qt saucepan. You need a big pan because the sauce will bubble up when add colder ingredients. As the sugar begins to melt stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil stop stirring. You can swirl the pan, but don't stir! As soon as all the sugar melts and is a dark amber color add butter to the pan and whisk until butter has melted. This is one of those times the mixture will bubble up on you. The longer the handle on the whisk, the better. Once the butter melts take the pan off the heat. Slowly add cram to the pan and whisk until smooth. Add in vanilla and stir in. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes then pour into glass jar and let cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator. Heat before serving. This made three 1/2 pint jars (3 cups) of sauce.

Hot Fudge Sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar (I used the cane sugar again, but white or brown is fine)
1/2 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
2 tsp vanilla

In medium saucepan, stir together everything except the vanilla. Cook over medium heat until everything is melty and combined. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. If you're going to use it soon, let it cool then store in an air-tight container and refrigerate. If you're going to can it, pour into jars hot and put the lids on so it'll seal. Even sealed, store in the fridge.

I didn't add any kind of tag to these jars, just the labels and ribbon. If you can't figure out how to eat dessert sauces, you probably don't need any. :)

Holiday Baking Treats

This has nothing to do with the stuff I made as gifts this year, but I did a ton of holiday baking last year and just realized I posted zero of the recipes. That makes me sad, since several of the things I made were big hits and I would love to scarf some this year if I wasn't on a sugar restricted diet. Thankfully I think I remember where I found most of the recipes, so I think I'll go ahead and post them so I have them next year!

Graham Cracker Brittle
1 box of graham crackers
1 cup of chopped pecans
2 1/2 - 3 sticks of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 T. vanilla

Place graham crackers on large cookie sheet - wax paper helps with clean up. (You'll break them later. Leave them together as it's easier to transfer from pan.) Sprinkle with pecans making sure each cracker is covered.

In sauce pan, melt butter, vanilla, and sugar. Boil 2 minutes. Then, cover crackers and pecans with butter mixture.

Bake for 10 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to wax paper or aluminum foil They will stick to pan/paper if not removed relatively quickly!!  

 Chocolate Kiss Truffles

28 Hershey’s Kisses
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons whipping cream
10 Hershey’s Caramel Kisses
1 cup ground pecans (or use powdered sugar, crushed graham crackers, other ground nuts, anything that cam be used as covering for the top layer!)

Place regular chocolates and whipping cream in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chocolates are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Cover; refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or until firm.

Using about 1 tablespoon of milk chocolate mixture for each truffle, shape chocolate around each caramel chocolate piece; roll in hand to make ball. The heat from your hands will mold the chocolate Be sure to cover each chocolate piece completely. Roll in pecans or preferred covering; refrigerate until ready to serve. For best chocolate flavor, allow truffles to soften at room temperature about 5 minutes before eating.

And the "creme" of the crop... Fantasy Fudge. This is off the back of the Kraft Marshmallow Creme jar. I made a TON of this last year and it was devoured.

Fantasy Fudge 
3 cups sugar  
3/4 cup  butter or margarine  
1 small can (5 oz.) evaporated milk 
1-1/2 pkg.  (12 squares) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped  
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme  
1 cup  chopped walnuts (optional, I ground some in the food processor as well)

1 tsp. vanilla

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-qt. saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 min. or until candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and marshmallow creme. Stir until melted. Add nuts and vanilla, stir. Pour into pan and let cool. Take out using the foil handles before slicing into squares

I'm still looking for a tasty roasted almond recipe, which is about the only thing I could make and actually eat this year, but I haven't found the right spice mixture yet. And I can't afford almonds this year. Sheesh. I'd also like to make some chex mix, which I do every year, and some puppy chow, but that may not actually happen, since we all seem to be getting sick again. BLAH.

Christmas Happy #2 - Sugar Body Scrubs

I did a lot of experimenting with this homemade gift. There are dozens of ways to make a sugar scub! A lot of them used ingredients that weren't easy to find, a lot used ingredients that required them to be refrigerated (which would make them useless to me, as I'd never remember to take them out and use them). But there were a few basic similarities and ingredients that served a purpose, so I made up a few different varieties and used them until I decided what I liked. Those were the ones I made as gifts.

First, even the brown sugar scrub includes half brown and half white sugar. The brown sugar is more abrasive than white, so the white keeps it from being too abrasive. I ended up using safflower oil in these, although olive oil works too. Safflower is cheaper and has no smell or color to interfere. You can use coconut oil or a variety of others, but this worked for me. I also bought a small bottle of Vitamin E oil from the vitamin section at Walmart and used a little in each one. While the safflower oil also works as a moisturizer, the Vitamin E oil also works as a preservative, which keeps these from having to be stored in the fridge! I also used honey in both because it also provides moisturizing, acts as a preservative, and I just like the hint of honey smell. And the lemon juice in the last one is also great the skin.

Here's the recipes I used.

Brown Sugar Scrub (Approx. 1 cup or 1/2 pint jar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp safflower oil
1 Tbsp vitamin E oil
1 Tbsp honey

Lemon Sugar Scrub (Makes more than 2 cups, closer to three 1/2 pint jars)
2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup safflower oil
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp lemon juice

For each recipe, combine in a bowl until well mixed, then store in air tight container. I used 1/2 pint canning jars in the "gift jar" collection.

I wanted to fancy up the jars a bit, but didn't have the materials I needed (fabric, fancier ribbon, wooden sticks for stirring) on hand and didn't have the opportunity to hike across town to the nearest craft store to get some, so I made do with what I had. The tags for the scrubs:

The liquid in your scrub will separate. Just stir before use! To exfoliate dry areas or face, massage about a tablespoon onto skin and rinse well with warm water. Cleanse or wash as normal. Pat Dry. Moisturize with your favorite lotion.

For a dryer scrub, add 1Tbsp of white sugar and stir. To make a wetter scrub, add 1tsp at a time of either oil (olive, safflower, vitamin E, coconut) or honey.

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Than a Lunch

I promise all my homemade gift instructions are coming up by the end of the weekend, but first I wanted to give a shout out to some of my dearest friends who are totally awesome.

Today I went to lunch with five of the most wonderful and inspiring women I know. I looked around the table and realized that these five women have all come to me at different times in my life, but at the right time, and all of them have stuck around.  One of them since we were 12. One since college. A couple since my banking days. One more recently, via this blog. But every one of them means so much to me and has helped me through some rough times. And I can honestly say that each one of them has helped me down a spiritual path over the years that's brought me closer to God and given me a greater understanding of faith. Thank you ladies. You're awesome.

And for the record, the enormous pile of baby stuff I came home with was also seriously awesome. This is the only "shower" we've had, and it was literally the six of us sitting around a table at Biaggi's for lunch. Yet I came home with exactly the stuff we really kinda needed - crib sheets and blankets and diapers and clothes and bibs... These ladies knew what we needed and that's what they gave us. And three garbage bags of hand me down clothes, some of which I handed down from Lauren to Nicole before her now-two-year-old was born. It's awesome to see how we can keep the clothes train moving for each other! Some of these clothes (and some of the ones I got from Sharonda a few weeks ago) will be on their 4th owner. Call me crazy, but I think it's great to know we've helped each other out that much. And for the record, I can remember the days at the bank when Nic would bring me bags of clothes after her sister cleaned out her closet. I stayed in a nicer wardrobe for years thanks to her!

All of that to point out that I have awesome friends. And those are just the ones in close proximity. I'm still using gear and clothes (and a crib!) passed on from Lauren who is ten hours away. I'm totally beyond blessed to have such great women in my life! Now I have to go dig through the bags of clothes I pulled out of storage tonight to see what I can pass on to Melanie for her 1 year old...

Christmas Happy

I've been busy.
This is part of the stash of homemade Christmas Happy Gifts that I've made lately. We didn't really buy gifts for the adults in the family this year, but there were some people I wanted to do something nice for, so I came up with a few ideas.

I wanted to try out some different things to see what worked best and what I might want to repeat in future years. With that in mind, I took pictures of everything before I took a box to lunch with some of my dear friends today and will hopefully post instructions for how I made each item over the next few days. This way when I get ready to make stuff next year, I'll remember!

I'll start with the easiest one, the vanilla.

Homemade vanilla extract. I started this particular project back in August. I posted how I started it here.  I let it steep until, a couple of days ago. Once a week or so I'd give the bottle a good shake. That's it. That was all the prep. Meanwhile, a few weeks ago I bought the special amber bottles, eight of the 4oz bottles and two of the 8oz bottles, from Specialty Bottle Company.  Vanilla will degrade in clear bottles if it's exposed to light, so the amber bottles are the best way to go.

A couple of days ago I was ready to bottle up my vanilla. First I sterilized my bottles in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting. Then I strained the vanilla through a mesh strainer with a coffee filter, which sorta worked, and some cheese cloth, which sorta worked, and the very last bit I put through a paper towel, which also mostly worked. The idea is to get the biggest part of the bean scraps out, although there will be some specks left. All that was left was to pour up the liquid into the bottles (using a funnel, of course), add a bean or two to each bottle and seal up with the tops.
I'm giving away all the 4oz bottles, but kept the big 8oz bottle (and another partial 8oz bottle of what was left) for myself. I wanted to package them nicely, but had limited supplies. I bought the labels at Office Depot and was able to use them on all my projects with some sheets left over. I used ribbon I already had to pretty them up. And I had a set of measuring spoons in pretty colors that I'd picked up for $2 at Fred's, so I divided them up and tied one onto each bottle with the ribbon. I also printed out a little tag for each one. I saved all my tags on my computer, but in case I lose the file I'll post it here:

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Yes, there are beans in your vanilla! The beans keep the vanilla “brewing” to make it stronger as it sits in your cabinet. The dark specks in the vanilla come from the bean and are normal. Shake before use, unless you are using in a light colored dessert where the shaking will stir up the specks.

And that's all there was to it. I gave out four bottles at a lunch time baby shower some friends had for me today and I have more to give to some of the family for Christmas. I'm not torn on what to do with my leftover beans. I think I'll probably dry some and grind into powder, or make some vanilla sugar to use in the sugar scrubs I like. But sugar scrubs are a post for later...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doing the Math

So I had my doc appointment for MicroTot today. If you're friends with me on FB you already saw the result and my obvious fear.

I can't birth a 12lb baby.

Here's the math. Sonogram estimated MT at 6lbs 11oz at 34 weeks, 2 days. That's 97th percentile. He measured big on everything else as well, landing at 85th percentile or greater in ever category. The tech said if I had come in today with no prior prenatal care, they'd declare me 37 weeks along and set my due date at December 27.

She also said that at his current rate of growth we could expect half a pound or more each week, landing us at an additional 4-5 pounds if he goes full term.

On the low end, he's closer to 6lbs now and gains 4. I'm giving birth to a 10lb baby.

On the high end, he's over 7 already and gains another 5. I'm looking at 12+lbs. Either way, that spells C-section, which really wouldn't make me happy. I liked getting to hang with Kaycie for a while after she was born instead of spending an hour in post-op. I liked the relatively short (5-7 days) recovery, even with a pretty bad episiotomy. I liked not having to pay for a C-section. BUT, Kaycie was just shy of 8 1/2 pounds, and they had to vacuum her out. I'm not sure how much bigger I could go and still push one out.

All that said, we asked the doc how for she'd let me go. She kinda shrugged and said she really, really wanted to see me get to 39 weeks.


Yes. Apparently (and I learned this from BFF Sharonda when baby Mason was early) white male babies are slow to complete lung development. Her comfort zone with his lungs is 39 weeks. That puts me in a really bad place. How do I sit on the line between not wanting to have a 12lb baby and wanting to make sure he's totally fully cooked? Of course I'm going to fall on the side of fully cooked, but Mason had perfect lungs and he was like 5 weeks early. That would be like having MT in the next week. Surely by 37 weeks he'd be ok, right? I dunno. But I do trust my doc, and that's important. I'm going to do whatever she says, no matter how crappy I'm feeling already.

She did have the nerve to ask if I felt bigger or heavier. Um, yes. And incredibly uncomfortable. Thanks.

On the bright side, we get sonograms once a week from here on out so we should be able to keep an eye on his growth. Here's hoping this all turns out best for MicroTot and I survive until he arrives...

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I pushed though last week and got some things done. Things like shoveling out most of the junk in the nursery.  Not all of it, but most of it. I even got Kaycie's old clothes that were still in the closet packed up and taken to storage, so I was able to hang up and inventory what I have for the little guy and determine where we have gaps (i.e. we need pajama gowns/footies but have 5 coats and enough short sleeve onsies to wear three a day).  I finally set up a baby registry at Babies R Us, online of course. Because I'm scared to even think about driving out to Dogwood in December, although I really really need to make a trip to Hobby Lobby/Michaels and BRU. I also set up a wish list on Amazon with some decor ideas that I may or may not actual use but wanted to keep in mind and possibly order if I can't find stuff I like locally. I decided to go easy with a jungle animal theme - monkeys and giraffes and elephants and lions. I should point out that neither of these lists are for soliciting gifts, as we aren't planning on showers and stuff this time, it's just so I remember what we need. And because BRU gives us a discount on unpurchased registry items after the little guy arrives. Useful. The truth is, we don't need a lot, but it'd be nice to have some things that aren't pink. Thankfully I picked out a whole lot of gender neutral stuff the first time around so I'm pretty well set on big stuff. Anything else I need can be picked up at Walmart on the way home from the hospital if it comes to that!

Still left to do - picking up the new chest of drawers on Wednesday so I can start putting things away. Ordering a couple of decor items tomorrow so I can get started and see where it goes. Still have to clean out a spot in our bedroom for the pack and play so he'll have a spot to sleep the first few weeks. And of course pulling the bassinet attachment for the pack and play out of storage, along with a pile of other baby gear currently living there, and putting it all together. Getting ready for Christmas. I'm pretty much done shopping but have to sort and wrap and finish up a little shopping that other people have asked me to take care of (and by "other people" I almost always mean my mom). Shipping a couple of gifts to Greg's sister and nephew. Then we decided this weekend that we'd have my family's official Christmas get together at my house this year for the first time ever, since I'm done with the traveling until after the new arrival and it'll just be easier to meet up here. Which means some cleaning and decorating needs to be in my future. Finally, a small group of awesome friends are throwing a little lunch for me on Friday and I had hoped to take a few little home made happies to share with them, but right now that may or may not happen. I just don't know how much I'll get done this week. I've got some of it started but only one thing actually finished. And I don't know if I can be trusted to make fudge and not eat it.

If you haven't noticed, I'm starting to get a little panicked about getting stuff together. For some reason I've got it in my head that he's coming a little early. Not a lot early, but I'm thinking right after Christmas, maybe the first week or so of January.  Ironically, I said the same thing about Kaycie and we all know how that turned out. Greg says it's because a woman in Big Lots a couple of weeks ago took one look at me and informed me he'd be early because I'm huge and carrying so low. I think it's mostly wishful thinking because I've felt so bad during this entire pregnancy that I'm just ready to be done.

The good news is that I know I'll get done what needs to be done and he'll arrive when he's ready or when Dr. T makes him. Hoping we'll get a clue after our sonogram on Wednesday. In the meantime, I'm taking a lot of deep breaths...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Here I Go Again

What the heck. I've been tired and uncomfortable every day of this pregnancy, but starting this past weekend I've all of the sudden become incapacitated tired. There hasn't been a moment since Sunday that I didn't feel like I could lay down wherever I was and fall asleep. Yesterday I had a doc appointment and I fell asleep on the exam table waiting on the doc to show up. No, she wasn't really late. I was only waiting about 10 minutes. I fell asleep again after Greg got home last night. I couldn't hold up my head any longer.

Poor Kaycie is the one suffering from my sudden exhaustion. I had no problem with her going outside to play yesterday, but after about 8 minutes of trying to blow bubbles and play chase with her I was afraid I was going to fall down in the yard and pass out from exhaustion. How can I play with my kid when I can't stay awake? I fell asleep on the couch this morning while she was watching Mickey Mouse. When that went off I turned on another one and continued my nap. This went on from 6:30 until 8. Seriously. I'm going to turn my kid into a TV zombie just because I can't function. It's going to be a long six weeks from here out unless something changes.

On the bright side, my appointment yesterday went fine, except for the part where the scheduling/checkout lady was so irritating I nearly lost it. But other than that, we're all fine. Going back every week now, and I'll be getting sonograms starting next Wednesday. Granted, things will get more complex now because it's December and the clinic is swamped with people trying to work in annual exams before the end of the year and Kaycie will be out of school for two weeks which means we'll probably be hauling her to a couple of appointments this month. That's always a nightmare, it'll be worse when they're backed up. We usually go in the mornings and it's not so bad, but so far the next two appointments are in the afternoon. Thankfully I have awesome inlaws who have agreed to drive over an hour next week to pick Kaycie up at school at 2, since the only open time they had was at 1:40 and we'd have been picking her up in the middle of her nap! Heaven help us.