New Year's Busy Eve

Who would have thought that the last day of the year would be my busiest in quite a while. I did it to myself, but I have lots of fun things to do today, including:

1. Shower, Primp, Dress
2. Shoe Shopping
3. Craft Supply Shopping
4. Hippie Grocery Store for dishwasher detergent and cosmetics
5. Regular Grocery Store for milk
6. Home again
7. Bake Homemade Oreos
8. Bake Buche de Noel (because I forgot to do it for Christmas)
9. Mix up No-Knead Bread for tomorrow (so easy and delicious too!)
10. Mix up crab dip for tomorrow (we have a big spread for football games (Aaron) and crafting marathon (Jessie))
11. Die of exhaustion because I usually only get one thing done off of my to do list on a daily basis as being pregnant has made me exhausted and apathetic
12. Daydream about baby (throughout day)
13. Work (I have a couple of tasks to wrap up today that I need to have done by Wednesday morning)

Then tomorrow I have to finish up whatever work I didn't get done today, make Crispix Mix (I add a few shakes of Franks Red Hot to spice up the recipe and give it my own twist), craft, snuggle, and do some more daydreaming. I am far to busy for my own good.

Photographic Proof

...that there's actually a baby in my belly!

First up, my baby's profile. We think she has my nose (as it's slightly turned up just like mine).

Here she is with her face to the camera. Her little right hand is above her chin, and her abdomen is toward the left of the screen.

Here are her tiny little feet. Both of her feet are in both pictures. She refused to uncross her legs, so the feet are stacked one on top of the other. The picture on the right is one of my favorites that we got.

I also got a picture that proves she's a girl, but I decided to keep that one for us. She is just too cute for words, and I can't wait to see her again at my next appointment!

The Results Are In...

Aaron and I went to the OB yesterday to have our "big" ultrasound - the one where we got to see it all, including the baby's sex. I have to say, it was truly amazing and one of my favorite life experiences thus far.

And we got to see it all - the baby's brain, heart, spine, stomach, kidneys, face, nose, lips, eyes, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes...and of course the one thing everyone wants to know about. The part that let us know that our baby is A GIRL!!!

She just kicked me pretty hard as I typed that.

She was active through the second half of the ultrasound, after I emptied my bladder of the 32 ounces of water they had me drink and she was a little less cramped in there. She kicked, turned her head, opened and closed her right hand and attempted to suck her left thumb. She is stubborn like her father and I, however, and so I have to have another ultrasound in four weeks (darn, huh?) in order to get better pictures of her feet. She had her legs crossed for the duration of the ultrasound and so they couldn't check them like they normally do (for club feet, but the doctor told us not to be worried because there's no sign of that from the pictures we do have, and is easily correctable if that is the case).

If I thought I was in love before, I was was wrong. Now I'm head over heels, and there's no going back. I'm going to have a daughter, and I can't wait to meet her.

I wanted to post a few of her pictures, but of course my scanner is not working this morning. I'll have Aaron fiddle with it either tonight or tomorrow night so that I can finally post her pictures. We also have a video of part of the ultrasound, but it will be a while before I can post that because it's on a VHS tape and the VHS to DVD recorder we have access to is locked in my sister's dorm room until she heads back to school in a couple of weeks. I'll try to post it if I can though.

Our baby girl got her first Christmas presents this year too - an incredibly soft blanket from Aaron's parents, and a silver spoon and silver birthday cake candle holders from my parents. She is so spoiled already. Aaron and I have yet to buy her anything, but we both caught the other doing some online browsing last night at the cutest baby girl clothes I think I've ever seen (check out baby Gap for the little one in your life - their new collection is awesome).

She has us wrapped around her little finger already.
So, I disappeared again. What of it? Busy times at work, Christmas shopping and baking, and celebrating three years since this:

have kept me incredibly busy. Plus I'm obsessed with point number 5 in my last post, since the utrasound occurs in less than a week now and I'm having a hard time being patient. By the way, you can guess here or there what sex the baby is if you'd like.

I really have no inkling as to what sex it is; my mom thinks it's a boy and Aaron keeps slipping and calling the baby "him", as do I. My sister and best friend want it to be a girl and my dad is convinced that's what it will be, but he could just be doing that since my mom says boy and he likes to pick on her a lot.


Today is the last day of 12 DAYS OF COOKIES, and I hope you've enjoyed all the recipes I've shared. Today's cookie is one I've wanted to try for a while, one that looks amazing, and one that I'm sure would be a hit: homemade oreos. I think they look more delicious than the branded kind, and now I'm craving a glass of milk. Enjoy!

Five Things

1. I've definitely been feeling the baby moving, so imagine my disappointment and slight panic this weekend when I went a day and a half without feeling much. Then my mom pointed out what should probably have been obvious: I hadn't moved much in a day and a half, and maybe if I pulled my butt up off the couch and moved around for a little while I might feel something more. So I got up, washed some dishes, made some cookies, made some more cookies, and made an afternoon snack. When I sat down the baby moved up a storm, and it was awesome.

I have to say that the baby moving is, at once, the weirdest and coolest thing I have ever felt. I love it and that's why I was missing it when the baby wasn't moving. Check with me in a few months when the baby is kicking me in the ribs, though, and see if I feel the same. I'm sure I'll still love it, but it won't be quite as awesome.

2. Carrie over at Carrster had her baby this weekend, and it's a girl! A beautiful girl, with a beautiful name. I'm so happy for her little family! Go over and congratulate her if you can, she definitely deserves it after all she's been through pregnancy-wise lately.

3. Frema is being induced today, because little Freka didn't seem to want to come out on her own. Wish her some good thoughts! I can't wait to see her little one!

4. In the one non-baby related note, there's only today and tomorrow left in my 12 DAYS OF COOKIES, and today I bring you a recipe I've brought before but one I love as much as ever: Nanaimo Bars. They're incredibly rich, which works better this time of year than during the summer, which is when I originally posted the recipe. If you do make them, cut them small as a large piece is almost too much to handle. And just as a side note, the recipe calls for vanilla custard powder and icing sugar. These are instant vanilla pudding mix and powdered sugar. It took me a minute to figure it out for sure, but I used these and they turned out wonderfully.

5. Final baby related note, I have my Big Ultrasound a week from Wednesday and I have no inkling one way or another as to what sex the baby is. Any guesses? I may have to choose randomly from the right guesses to send out a little prize, if anyone is interested. I'll take guesses until Wednesday at noon (EST).


The belly:

Sorry I disappeared there for a few days, right in the middle of the 12 DAYS OF COOKIES; work picked up and I had a few long days to deal with, which meant nothing but work got done because I still feel low on energy.

The baby is still down near my lower hand, and will make it up to about my belly button soon, but is still making quite the bump. One not-so-bright acquaintance exclaimed "Oh! You're so big!" It took all my strength to not say "bite me" because I know I'll get a lot bigger. But yes, I am much bigger than I though I'd be at this point. I'll be 20 weeks (halfway done) at Christmas which kind of blows my mind.


Speaking of
12 DAYS OF COOKIES, here are 3 yummy-looking recipes to make up for missing the past 2 days and one for today.

First come the prettiest Peppermint-topped Brownies I've ever seen, and really, is there a better combination than mint and chocolate? Not this time of year, I don't think. (There used to be a picture with that recipe, and I don't know what happened to it, so sorry if it's not there but promise me, they looked pretty.) Although they sound like a bit of work, the work doesn't sound difficult just time consuming, and they'd be perfect if you were trying to impress someone with your mad baking skills.

Next, are Lemon-Frosted Sugar Cookies. I, personally, love cookies that are sweet and a bit tart, so these would fit the bill nicely, I'm sure. And, with a little wheat germ in them, they sound like they may have some nutritional value. Score!

This next one is for all the Seinfeld fans out there: Black-and-White Cake Cookies! I'm sure these will be nicer to you than Jerry's was to him.


Our 3-year wedding anniversary is next week (I can't believe it; 3 years already!), and Aaron has been mentioning taking me somewhere for the weekend. I also have my work Christmas party tonight, so this is shaping up to be a fun weekend. Too bad I have zero Christmas presents bought yet except for one I made for Aaron. Yes that's right. None.

I'm beginning to freak out a little bit about this fact.

Less Awesomeness Tonight

It is 8:30 p.m. and I am still working and nowhere near done with what I need to do tonight (in the interest of full disclosure, this is my own doing as I took a 2-hour nap this afternoon). So I'm sorry, but all you get tonight is my next 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS cookie recipe.

Today's cookie is one I've never made, but always wanted to try because it reminds me of one of my favorite things to eat: pecan pie. The cookies are Pecan Tassies, and they look delicious!

I hope you are all having a better evening than I, and that you're all staying safe and warm, especially if you're in the midst of the lovely winter storm that started in Oklahoma and has now made it's way to the upper Midwest. Gotta' love winter, right?

(Also, send good thoughts to Frema; it sounds like she's getting very close to meeting her little Freka!!!)

A Few Pieces of Awesomeness

Piece the first: Do you know what I love? Like, completely, utterly love? If you were wondering, I can give you the answer: I love maternity pants.

I don't know why I waited so long to buy some, but they are about 1000% more comfortable than the system I was using before. The previous system consisted of a Bella band and my unzipped regular pants, except as of recently, apparently my belly got a little bigger than what works with the Bella band so the band kept rolling up and my pants kept almost falling down and I kept having to tug at them. It pretty much sucked. I broke down and bought a few pair of maternity pants last night and I may never take them off again. Seriously. Elastic waistbands are wonderful things.

Piece the second: This isn't so much awesome in itself as the conversations it has spurred. Watching television the other morning at about 5 o'clock (couldn't fall back asleep after the early morning potty run) I was nodding off when something caught my ear. That something was a commercial for the DVD of The Bourne Ultimatum (which I was a big fan of, by the way). During the commercial the announcer says the following: "Your ultimatum: Bring Bourne Home".

Um, that's not an ultimatum so much as as a directive. So we have been making up our own ultimatums all weekend: "Either help me make dinner, or Bring Bourne Home", "Bring Bourne Home, or kinda regret it", "Bring Bourne Home, or don't. Your choice", and on, and on, ad nauseum. It's a lot of fun.

Piece the third: World Peace Cookies. These are today's 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS recipe. I made these for the first time this past summer while taking care of my mom post-surgery, and no one could get enough of them. Plus we went through nearly a gallon of milk with them, so even though they're incredibly decadent, they also cause you to get in your calcium and vitamin D, which can never be a bad thing, right? Mmmm....coookies....

A Look at What's to Come

Last night Aaron and I did something new: we had the pleasure of babysitting a friend's (nearly) 3 month old son! Aaron was fairly terrified and stuck to his whole, "I don't hold other peoples' babies" rule. Wuss. He did, however, do plenty of cooing at him while he was laying on a blanket on the floor, warmed a bottle for the baby when he was crying and I was trying to comfort him, and was generally amazed at anything he did.

This is the first time we've (together) been around a baby without a ton of other people around. I babysat for a neighbors' two daughters starting when they were each pretty young so I have some baby experience, but that was also over 1o years ago. Cuddling with the baby was fun and he was so sweet most of the time, save for a few minutes of truly pitiful crying, and even that was cute. He slept on my lap in my recliner (that rocks) for about 45 minutes and that was my favorite part. I think it made us both look forward to our baby a little more, even though Aaron did ask at one point (during the longest crying spell), "what did you sucker me into?"

I distinctly remember him being a willing participant in the whole baby making process, so I don't think I suckered him into doing anything.

I think that I've been feeling the baby move since Saturday, but it's so slight and intermittent that I'm not quite sure. The feeling I've been having happens more reliably after I drink orange juice, what I've heard is a trick to get the baby to move, so I'm about 85% sure that this is the baby moving. The books all say I should feel definite movement soon, and I'm looking forward to that reassurance.

My hips have been killing me lately, mostly when I sleep but they've also started hurting during the day lately which is fairly annoying. I went to the chiropractor yesterday, the first time since I found out I was pregnant, and while it seems to have helped with some of the daytime pain, it didn't lessen the stress and worry. It increased it, of course, as do most things that may in any way affect the baby and I cried the whole way to a meeting I had, stopping just in time to dry my tears and have the redness fade away before I had to go in from the parking garage.

I don't think I've posted this here yet, and I don't know why I haven't talked about the baby more since it's pretty much the thing that's happening in my life right now besides some interesting things at work, but our "big" ultrasound, where we get to find out the baby's sex, is scheduled for the day after Christmas. Since we're not really buying each other anything besides a few stocking stuffers, this is quite the Christmas present. Of course I'll be a nervous wreck that day leading up to the appointment, and there's the whole having to drink 32 ounces of water and holding it until the ultrasound is over that I'm already worried about.

Overall I'm so thoroughly excited about the baby that I can hardly stand it. This whole thing is very cool, if not the most comfortable thing I've ever done. We're nearing the half-way point of the pregnancy and I can't believe how fast it has gone so far. While I can't wait for the baby to be here I'm having fun enjoying the ride.

Today's 12 DAYS OF COOKIES recipe is for the cookies I've made for our office decorating party today (which - I was supposed to make the mint chocolate cookies, but I had a baby to cuddle and those took too much time). I made super-easy "Those Pretzel Things", which are basically rolos on pretzels, melted slightly in a warm oven and topped with a pecan. Yum!

Titles are Hard

I have had a very long day today, but a very good day all at the same time. Some unexpected funds are on their way, some good things are happening out of something else unexpected, and I had a good talk with my boss today in which she demanded my child in return for something else good (she was just kidding, of course). All on top of a 3-hour early morning meeting in a fifty degree room (that was the not good part).

All of this has left me completely whipped and we have plans tonight, so all you're getting is today's 12 DAYS OF COOKIES recipe. This one is a recipe that a former co-worker made for the office every year, but now that she's gone I think I'm going to have to make it for myself. The recipe is for Cornflake Wreath Cookies. They're ooey-gooey-delicious and I am totally craving them tonight. Kind of like fancy rice krispie treats with out the rice krispies, but cornflakes instead, and they're green and have extra candy put right on top. Yum!!!

Hi, My Name Isn't...

So...names for the baby. Aaron and I have spoken a lot about names, and while we have a boy's name all picked out (as well as an alternate), we have no girl's name yet and can't seem to agree on one. We've both had plenty of suggestions, but all have been vetoed by the other.

Audrey requested that, since we aren't telling anyone the names we have chosen, I give some baby name rejects. And who am I to deny such a fun request? No one, that's who.

Rejected boys names include:

Matthew, Michael, John (too common)

Sam, Jim, Steve (too many family members with these names)

Ryan, Clint, Joel, Herb (names of my ex-boyfriends, therefore not even worth asking about according to Aaron)

But there weren't that many names we disagreed on for boys. Boy's names are apparently easy for us.

Girl's names, on the other hand...boy are there a lot of rejects

Tiffany, Ashley, Sara(h) (too many people we went to school with had these names)

Brandi, Casey, Nicole, Deborah (names of Aaron's ex-girlfriends)

Molly, Mary, Joanie (too many family members with these names)

Julia, Isabel, Emily (too "old-timey" according to Aaron)

Peyton, Olivia, Lucy (names we actually agreed on at one point but have since removed from the list)

The list just goes on. There are so many that neither of us can recall all of them.

Oh, and then there are names suggested by friends and family:

Skylar, Cheyanne (Aaron's side of the family)

Bob (my 9-year-old cousin, who really didn't care and just gave a suggestion to be excused)

Madeline, Madison (a coworker suggested these, as well as Grace, but I seeing as there's already another famous Grace with our last name, that one was ruled out too)

So, yes. Those are the name rejects for whatever various reasons. But there's always room for suggestions, especially for girls' names so please, suggest away if you're so inclined!

Today's 12 DAYS OF COOKIES recipe uses one of my favorite fun cookie tools: a cookie press. I like pretty much every kind of spritz cookie, the kind of cookies you make with a cookie press, but my favorite is Mint Spritz. They're an easy cookie to make, fun to press out onto the baking sheet, and the recipe always makes a ton. Aaron's mom gave me a nice cookie press when they moved to Florida 1 1/2 years ago, and I have yet to use it, so I'm thinking I need to break it out this year.

Monday Meal Planning (yes, again)


So, yeah. It's freezing outside, literally, and this kind of weather makes me want warm, comfort foods including and especially soup. In honor of me freezing my hiney off every time I even look outside, here are some soup recipes to warm me up, and possibly you too.

Dinner tonight (coincidentally, and probably the impetus for this post) is Vegetarian Lentil Soup with Croutons from this month's issue of Everyday Food (my absolute favorite cooking magazine for simple, delicious dinners and no, they're not paying me to say that). I'm looking forward to it even if Aaron seems suspicious (he doesn't like soggy bread a.k.a. croutons in soup).

I used to work at a locally owned steak and seafood restaurant, and this time of year leaves me craving one of their specialties: French Onion Soup. They served it in a pewter crock with a Holland Toast and covered in melted provolone. (Note to self: make Aaron take me to said restaurant for lunch this weekend.) While I unfortunately do not have their secret recipe to share, this one looks absolutely delicious and not too difficult either. I may have to try it out some day soon (again much to Aaron's chagrin due to the whole "bread-in-soup" issue; crybaby, geez).

For those of you who are picky about soggy bread like my husband, this recipe for Italian Sub Stoup is a tried-and-true favorite in our house. We just leave off the Garlic Toast Floaters and have some Garlic Texas Toast on the side. Aaron loves this one, but it has a lot of meat in it so the fact that he loves is surprises me, oh, not at all. Although I will admit I love it too. It's hard not to love something so tasty. One tip though: if you're going to have leftovers of this soup (which is distinctly possible, as it makes quite a bit) cook the noodles separately and add them to each bowl as you eat it, otherwise they soak up all the liquid and the leftovers aren't nearly as appealing.

My mom got me a hand blender (sounds dangerous, no?) for my birthday last week, so I'm looking for a few good recipes to use that require me to puree the soup. A coworker strongly recommends this Acorn Squash Bisque which I may have to try, however I'm a little wary since making an absolutely horrid butternut squash soup last year. We'll see.

I'm a sucker for tomato soups, and this Roasted Garlic-and-Basil Tomato Soup sounds quite yummy. I already know I'm a fan of this Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup. Now if only I could find the TGI Friday's tomato basil soup recipe, I'd be in heaven. That and my favorite local Mediterranean restaurant's rice-and-lentil soup. Man, am I ready for dinner!

And of course, you should serve some cookies for dessert.

Today's 12 DAYS OF COOKIES recipe is for Chocolate-Mint Wafers. I think this one is going on my "to-bake" list this year. In fact, I might make them for an office-decorating party this Friday.

Happy Eating!

"Meal" Planning Monday

Only if Your "Meal" Consists of Christmas Cookies Edition

As promised last week, here are some Holiday recipes for all of you. I've broken my list up into sections, and I hope you all enjoy the recipes I'm sharing.

Tried and True Favorites

First a family favorite, that was my Grandma Memar's recipe: Russian Tea Cakes. My mom told me today that she made these ever year at Christmas time, and my mom does the same. Since my mom will make these and we're spending Christmas with them, I'm skipping making these this year, but that doesn't mean you should. They're really good.
Russian Tea Cakes
1 c. butter
1/2 c. confectioners sugar (plus more for rolling the cookies)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. sifted flour
3/4 c. finely chopped nuts (usually walnuts or pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla. Stir in salt, flour and
nuts. Form dough into 1 inch balls.
Bake for 14 to 17 minutes.
Roll in confectioners sugar when hot and again when cooled.

Next, here are a couple of Aaron's favorites: Magical Mint Kiss Cookies and Birds' Nest Cookies. While the Magical Mint Kiss cookies are among his favorites, it's not Christmas for him without the Birds' Nests, and I'll agree; they're delicious!
Birds' Nest Cookies
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Favorite Bars and

1 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 egg yolks
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 slightly beaten egg whites
2 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 c. seedless fruit preserves (we typically use raspberry

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until combined, scraping the side of the bowl occasionally. Beat in egg yolks until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, and then stir in any remaining flour using a wooden spoon.

Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Dip each ball into the egg whites and then roll in the chopped nuts to coat. Place the balls one inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Press your thumb into the center of each ball to leave an indent. The deeper the indent, the more space you'll have to fill with jam when they're done, but don't press too deep either as if you make it too thin the middle may burn.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light brown. Transfer to a
wire rack to cool. When cool, fill with preserves. Store in single layers
separated by wax paper.

Some of my other favorites that I make every year are Rugelach and (while not exactly a cookie I'm adding it here) fudge (aka Rachael Ray's 5-minute Fudge Wreath). Neither of these will disappoint and can be endlessly tampered with to make countless varieties, including using all peanut butter chips for peanut butter fudge, and using different flavors of jam in the rugelach.

New Recipes I'm Dying to Try
(Not literally of course, but they sound delicious.)

Every year I buy the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine (much to Aaron's chagrin since I have about 8 years worth of these magazines already and he thinks that this is more than adequate; he obviously doesn't love to bake like I do). The cookies (and other sweets) I'm dying to try all come from this magazine, and include Chocolate Pretzels, Strawberry Shortbread (the only one of these that I'm most definitely adding to my baking list), and Crunch Caramel Bites.

(I'm posting these recipes here so as not to make this post so incredibly long that you get bored halfway through.)

Other Seasonal Favorites

Another Christmas-time standard around here is the Buche de Noel. This is another of Aaron's favorites and is absolutely delicious. One note on this one though is that while making my Thanksgiving Pumpkin Roll I discovered a new trick to make my usually ugly-but-delicious buche de noel a little prettier. Instead of just lining the jelly roll pan with parchment paper, butter the pan first, then put down the parchment paper then butter and flour the paper. It worked like a dream for the pumpkin roll so I don't know why it wouldn't work in this case too.

If you're like me and prefer to do most of your holiday baking in one day, you'll need some heavy-duty baking fuel to get you going, and this Breakfast Casserole is my absolute favorite (I substitute the cubed potato type hash browns for the potato rounds, but otherwise follow the recipe exactly). It's the perfect recipe to put together the night before and then throw in the oven right when you wake up.

And just in case you're not exhausted after all this baking, I've come across a holiday craft I'd like to try out: a gumdrop wreath. Doesn't that look easy and cute? I came across this when I was cruising Alicia Paulson's beautiful and inspiring blog and flickr photos. She makes me want to do so much more crafting and baking than I do already, and she's super talented! (Can you tell this is my new blog crush?)

Finally, I wanted to let you all know of a temporary feature I'll be doing for the next couple of weeks - my very own "Twelve Days of Cookies". I'll be posting a new cookie recipe here for the next eleven days (making 12 days total). I hope everyone loves them!
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