Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cookie Cravings (Or How Mike and I Met)

Many of you have heard the story of how Mike and I met. How one day, when I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 21-year-old receptionist- a mere weiner tot in the eyes of corporate culture- Mike approached the operator station of the software company that employed us both. Sitting on the desk was a freshly opened package of chocolate covered graham crackers- which, incidentally, I've never much liked since.

I didn't know Mike very well, since he was relegated to the Support Building, Building C, all the way across the courtyard from my coveted location in A Building. And here he was, but a stranger to my domain... STEALING MY COOKIES!!! AS IN, EATING THEM WITHOUT ASKING!!!

Well, you can totally understand what I did next. I proceeded to try and get him fired. Not over the cookies, of course. But over blind-transferring calls to the operator desk when I was on duty. Over perceived rudeness to our international customers. Any behavior that further incriminated him as World's Biggest Douchebag, I tried to tap into. But alas, I failed, and he remained one of Support's favorite analysts.

When my attempts to get him fired didn't work, I finally broke down and extended a friendly hand, inviting him to join the company softball team that I was re-forming. I was, like, waaaayyyy popular at Barr. (oh, and modest too, don'tcha know.) I had lots of friends in all the departments, and so the softball team was quickly filled with the most fun employees at the company.

Former teammates.... and you know who you are.... put in complaints to me at our first practice, requesting that Mike's friends Ann and Nick remain on the team, but that he be placed in our cheering squad. However, he soon became one of the most valued players on the team, our first baseman! Friendships formed. Subsequent business ventures formed as a result of those friendships. And Mike had me to thank for it!  So naturally, he was really doing me quite the courtesy to up and marry me as a token of his gratitude!

*This is my version of events. Suffice it to say that Mike's version starts out, "One time, when Tammy was a Super Bitch....," but, I digress.

The point of this little reflection here is that cookies have played a vital role in our relationship. They brought us together, in many ways- from the chocolate-covered-graham crackers at the beginning, to the sugar cookies from Uppercrust Bakery that Mike would overnight me while I interned in Orlando, (sweet boyfriend!) We often share cookies at lunchtime, and my sister even gave us each our own package of cookies on our wedding day to head off any potential disagreements! So it's natural that one of my big PG cravings is cookies!

Mike Baby made me delish chocolate chip cookies from scratch the other day, and I was inspired to spread some cookie love to the masses. So, once a week I'm going to share one of my favorite cookie recipes with ya'll. Chances are I'll be craving that particular cookie and you can feel free to whip up a batch your ownself and eat like a pregnant lady. And when it comes down to it, don't we all just want to eat like pregnant ladies? We eat and eat and eat... and it's okay, because the extra cushion can be attributed to baby makin'. Sweet!

This week's Cookie Craving: White Chocolate Cherry Shortbreads, from Better Homes and Gardens. Yum!

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter (the cold part is important- and NO MARGARINE!)
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped  *I used chopped white chocolate chips and thought that worked out fine....)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter 

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

5. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60. *or more like 40 if you're me and keep sneaking bits of cookie dough.

These lil darlings are a perfect Christmas cookie, and would've been awesome for Valentine's Day too, had I gotten off my lazy tush in time to post this beforehand. But, next year you're all set! and really since they come out such a pretty pink color, you could use pink or other pastel sanding sugars and make them really cheerful for spring. Either way, you won't be looking at them for long- they're too tasty to last!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I eat. I cook and I eat.

After my smorgasbord in Savannah, I came home Monday night with a strong desire to eat something "healthy."

I settled on mushroom-and-mozzerella stuffed chicken breasts from Fresh Market and homemade caprese salad. As in, I sliced the beefsteak tomatoes and fresh mozzerella and chiffonaded the basil and reduced the balsamic my ownself.

We cook from scratch in the Herchel House, oh, yes we do.

Here's my take on "healthy:"

Yummmmy. I felt so cleansed that I didn't feel one bit bad about having sushi for dinner last night. Or Satchel's Pizza for lunch today. Or that sugar cookie that the Sales Manager from the Sleep Inn just brought me.

That bloated chick on the elliptical machine that you'll see later tonight? Yeah, that'll be me. So much for personal training. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Baby Loot

During this interim phase of being too big for my own clothes, but not big enough for maternity, I've been robbed of my favoritest of favorite pasttimes- online shopping. Thus, I have resorted to: 1. Complaining.
2. Rigging my current wardrobe with the help of Bella Bands. 3. Picking out supercute stuff for Sprout.

This all started weeks ago with the discovery of the most perfect baby bag ever, ever, EVER. A whimsical creation from Kate Spade, in gender-neutral and Gator-appropriate navy and orange, there really is no other baby bag for me. Er. For Sprout. I am currently accepting donations toward the purchase of said bag- although, I'm not opposed to enlisting #1, above, to get my bag from Mike Baby. (Sorry, honey... But then again, see #2, above, for a taste of what I'm currently doing for our fam. Suffice it to say I'm taking one for the team!) See the cute little pacifier and safety pins! SO friggin' precious. I'm in love. Yes, with a bag. Can you blame me? Of course not.

Next, of course, was the issue of a nursery. As I've mentioned before, I am super excited about planning a gender-neutral nursery, which affords me the luxury of selecting accessories from any genre. I had but one major factor to consider- Mike's insistence that there be a large rendition of a T-Rex flying an F-14 Tomcat included in the nursery decor. The image hails from a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, and is not negotiable by any means. If Sprout's a girl, a pink bow will be added to ol' T-Rex' scaly head.  Many of you may be wondering why I agreed to this, and my wholehearted response is, how incredibly lucky is Sprout to have a papa who is so adamantly involved in the arrangement and decoration of his/her nursery? Besides, I have my whole nesting plan laid out and will proceed to steamroll those plans right on over anyone who gets in my way, up to and including Mike Baby and the dogs- so the least I can do is jump on board with the T-Rex pic.

So, I proceeded to shop nurseries until I found one that will suitably blend with the pic- and I absolutely love it! It's from the Land of Nod, which we unfortunately do not have in Florida- however, the majority of the items are available online- yay! Land of Nod is Crate and Barrel's children's home furnishings line, and I can't gush enough about how cute their stuff is. The nursery is called All Creatures Great and Small, and T-Rex will look just fine up on the wall next to all the other critters. Plus, there's an "under the bigtop" circus-tent style toy storage that just makes me happy. In fact, I'm pretty sure I need one of them for my own room!

In keeping with the critters theme, I did make my first nursery purchase in Savannah over the weekend- a darling baby bluebird clock that says "Time Flies."  It's a Two's Company creation, that I got for 40% off at the closing sale of this awesome store called Vintage Home. This clock, a pair of lovely handmade Jill Schwartz earrings, and a tea towel with a chocolate chip cookie recipe on it, were among my fave souvenirs from the trip- and I'm so happy to have my first baby item in hand!

Of course there are other items we need to start stockpiling- diapers, bottles, warmers... the list goes on and on, as most every new mama figures out. We're going to just start buying things a little bit at a time so we're not hit with big-ticket items at the last minute, and so it's ever-important to keep an eye out for good deals and to make sure we know what we want so when the time comes to purchase, we're not in a state of indecision. I know I'm only 10 weeks right now, but hey, Sprout's over 25% complete at this point, and I have 0% of my preparation done! So, for any current mamas reading this, I'd much appreciate a list of your favorite can't-live-without baby items that have really saved your life- brand suggestions, what to stay away from, what you found out that you didn't really need, etc. You can always just leave a comment, or email me at I'd be so grateful! So far I've got a basic list started, but I find myself easily distracted by all-too-frivolous items like these:
Oh, they're happening. Mike disagrees, but what does he know about infant fashion?! Boy or girl, my precious darlin' Sprout will have their lil baby feet warmed in these adorable baby boots. After all, their first 6 months will be during fall/winter! Of course we gotta keep their feet warm!

And we gotta keep my feet warm too... with these magenta boots. Teehee. *When I first saw these, Mike threatened to ban the Ugg Australia website from our home computer. Luckily he has no jurisdiction over my office computer because I just love these boots! For those who are not Ugg fans, well I bought my first pair in December and I am a devoted convert now- they're like walking on a pillow! And while Sprout won't be able to walk for quite some time, I'm sure that he/she will appreciate the fact that, if they could, their feet would be cushioned.

And remember, if ever you need some retail therapy, I am pregnant and hormonal and totally capable of justifying any purchase you make- the perfect shopping buddy!

Busy, busy, busy bees....

So, obviously I've been a super bad blogger and haven't posted anything in, oh my goodness, like 10 days. What is wrong with me?! Loyal readers (all 4 of you) I do apologize. But fear not, for not one, but 2 posts await you this blustery, rainy, craptastic day.

I must first tell you about our recent acquisition, a 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe. Mike and I have been a one-car family since before our wedding (when we sold Mike's beloved Jeep Wrangler in order to pay for our honeymoon. Sweet husband.) Mike would generally ride his motorcycle to and from work, but between the recent cold spells that have forced us to carpool and the belly girth that will soon hinder my ability to get in and out of the Stratus unassisted, a second car seemed to be in order. We got a great deal on the Santa Fe, and it's only got 65,000 miles on it! We're quite pleased with the purchase, especially since we can now pull our kayaks, use our bike rack, and load up dogs in more space than a measly backseat (oh, and it'll run over curbs at tailgates with more ease too. Whew!)

On February 2nd, we had our first ultrasound! I am happy to report that there is just one Sprout currently shacked up in my belly, and that he/she has a loud heartbeat and is very active for their size, which was estimated at 9 weeks, 1 day at that point. Our official due date based on the sonogram is September 6th- which is, quite fittingly, Labor Day. I understandably had some serious concerns about this due date- Labor Day Weekend? And all surrounding weekends are Gameday weekends? When on earth am I going to hold birthday parties?! This kid had better get used to Birthday Tailgates.... and I guess Mama's got to get used to that idea too, seeing as all my dreams of theme parties for years to come are dashed by this inconvenient due date. (Easy to see where my priorities lie!)

I know all the ultrasound pics in the world look exactly the same, but I was pretty impressed that he/she already had a little baby-shape and isn't merely a blob- and that we were getting to see so much movement! So here you are, Sprout's photographic debut, with helpful arrow. I personally think that he/she is awfully cute!

And speaking of pronouns- I had only been thinking of boy names since we found out I was pregnant- I was simply obsessed with coming up with a boy name that we agreed on! Well the second I saw the little wiggle worm up on the screen, I started saying "She." No idea why, just out of the blue... er, pink. We still aren't going to find out, and hopefully our 20 week US won't make it too easy for us to tell, but I just think it's interesting what my instincts are telling me. In the meantime, we've come to an agreement about names- that I can pick the girl name, and Mike can pick the boy name- but we each have veto power. Honestly, this has been a lot less stressful for me only having to think of one name! I know I'd said before we'd agreed that part of the girl name would be Rose, and that's still a possibility; current contenders are Ava Rae, Ava Rose, and Celia Rose. Mike does not like how Southern Ava Rae sounds, which is precisely why I like it... And here's where that veto power can kick me in the booty. He did agree, however, that should I pick Ava Rose, we can call her Ava Rose, and the whole two-name thing is awfully appealing to me for some reason. Stay tuned, because in true Libra form I'm certain to change my mind at least a dozen more times!

After the excitement of the ultrasound on Tuesday, leaving for Savannah to attend the Southern Women's Show was admittedly a little anticlimactic.  However, I ended up having an INCREDIBLY awesome time! Visit Gainesville had a booth set up in the travel section, and it was just my lucky week that Morgan from the Florida Museum of Natural History was able to join me. Morgan is one of my new fave people, and I'm not just saying that on the off chance that she's reading this! We shared a love of yummy food and cute accessories, and she was such a blessing to have on board to share the show responsibilities with me. We had a prize wheel that attracted so many people, the line wrapped around the adjacent booth, and just keeping up with it was exhausting! Luckily there were the Southside Firemen to look forward to each evening- performing a fashion show in between selling tee shirts and calendars, these guys in uniform were raising money for their burn victim foundation- and raising the temps of all the Red Hat Ladies in the audience too! A special nod goes to Hottie McHotterson, who was clearly their ringer- they had this poor guy selling tote bags in the morning, tee-shirts in the afternoon, calendars during the show... and then he was the grand finale on stage each evening! I broke down and bought a calendar for my momma, who I'd have loved to have seen up there next to the stage getting her hug from a fireman. Too funny!

When Morgan and I weren't preaching the gospel of Gainesville or laughing at the firemen, we were indulging in our love of all things tasty. The first night we had dinner at The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen's restaurant in Downtown Savannah. I had crab-stuffed bacon-wrapped shrimp in a basil cream sauce (and yes, the recipe is online, here.)

We also visited Molly MacPherson's, a Scottish pub that delighted us with their shepherd's pie and maple butter- not to mention a free round of drinkie-drinks (don't worry, mine was but a fruity concoction of juices, sprite, and grenadine- Sprout's too young to drink!)  And on Saturday afternoon, after a desperate struggle to locate the cupcake bakery that was twice suggested to us, I finally obtained two perfect vanilla cupcakes from Back in the Day Bakery. Despite the hassle of finding them in midtown Savannah, the pink buttercream frosting and heart-shaped sprinkles were, quite literally, icing on the cupcake. Yummers.

All that, combined with my 500+ consumer sales leads, resulted in a very successful and enjoyable weekend in Savannah. Of course, having eaten my way through the city, I have no idea if now my dress khakis aren't buttoning because of Sprout or as a result of my own bad eating habits, but I am trying to combat weight gain of any kind with personal training sessions. I started at the YMCA on Thursday just before I left for my trip, and my wonderful trainer, Deanne, will be working with me once a week to keep me up on my strength training. She's worked with pregnant clients before, and I am so excited to have her on Team Tammy.  I'll still be keeping my membership to GHFC, but even with the membership fees AND PT fees, it was cheaper to go to the Y than to get a trainer from Gainesville Health. Yeesh!

This week I am looking forward to Thursday when my Sissa arrives to scout baby shower locations with me and give me lots of hugs! Also looking forward to a quiet Valentine's Day with Mike Baby- it was 4 years ago on Valentines Day that we were hanging out and realized maybe we had something more than friendship going on. And look at us now! After all that time, he's still my fave person to get wings and beer with, and that's gotta be worth something. :) I love you, Babe!