Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lately, I have realized that the planner in me has been a little unprepared. Unplanned. Up-in-the-air. All characteristics that previously would cause me a great deal of anxiety. I used to really consider myself a meticulous person- very organized. Never really very neat, but organized nonetheless. I’m the kind of girl that travels with a trip folder, carefully labeled with my destination city, all of my travel documents organized by their order of necessity- directions to airport, info about airport parking, e-ticket already printed out, shuttle reservation to hotel, HopStop directions from hotel to lunch restaurant, from lunch restaurant to spa appointment, from spa appointment back to hotel…. You get the idea. Preparedness generally gives me comfort and a sense of control in a chaotic world. (Name that movie, folks.)

Anyway, what I have noticed of late is that my “pregnancy brain,” a condition that I once didn’t believe in, has caused me to be a lot more relaxed about my schedule, my to-do list, and veering off path. For instance, the following is a list of pregnancy-related truths that I held dear, that I have since reconsidered:

1. Scary full-belly maternity pants. I swore I wouldn’t wear these, that I’d only buy the ones with the low-panel that sits below the tummy. However, my very FIRST pair of maternity pants were the scary full-panel ones. And I will tell you that I love them, because they keep me from scratching my itchy, expanding tummy and also give me a nice smooth line under my maternity shirts to boot.

2. Find out Sprout’s gender. I was pretty adamant about this one too. I felt like if something was going to be completely out of my control and I was just gonna get whatever I was gettin’, I may as well go the distance and wait it out. And I think I would’ve too, had it not been for Name Wars. We still can’t agree on a boy name at all! So in 5 days, we’ll know if we can stop arguing about it…. Or if we’ve wasted all these weeks and months agreeing on a girl name for nothing! *incidentally, now that we’ve decided to find out, I’m DYING for the ultrasound day to get here! Maybe part of me wanted to find out the whole time and since I couldn’t before now, I convinced myself I didn’t want to know anyway so I wouldn’t have to wait? Who knows.

3. Schedule a c-section delivery. This was, again, borne from my control-freakishness that I was in no way going into labor unexpectedly, to have post-birth pics taken of me looking scraggly and brow-beaten, to miss an appointment or a meeting or something because Sprout was unpredictable in his/her arrival. But now I know that c-sections are a lot harder to recover from, that it’s major surgery that causes a lot of pain, that the body doesn’t recognize a c-section birth and therefore weight loss is significantly more challenging, and that if I want to be back to work in 6 weeks, as I do, I’m gonna have to go about things differently in order to make it up and about by then.

4. Use disposable diapers. Oh, hush, readers who think I’ve gone crazy. I read a lot about the absorbent gel in disposables is a big cause for diaper rash, first because of the chemicals in the gel, and second, because they tend to be changed less, especially in daycare centers, as a result bc they just don’t feel wet. Now, I’m not going to go 100% cloth here. What we’re going to be using, and I WILL NOT be swayed on this, is 7th Generation disposables when Sprout’s a newborn, and once he/she is a few weeks old and a few pounds heavier, we’ll switch to gDiapers. They’re a “hybrid” of cloth and disposable- a cloth cover with a disposable , flushable liner inside. It’s a lot better for the environment too- disposables take up to 500 years to decompose, while this will be flushed away, with all contents, therefore eliminating mountains of stinky diaper trash as well. They can just be thrown away too, which is nice- so we’ll still have the obligatory diaper genie- but we’ll be producing much less trash, and I’ll feel better having less plastic and chemicals on Sprout!

Here are some of my fave pregnancy items that I’m just dying to have right now:

Stylish hospital gown from Bring Your Own Gown:

This cute Olian maternity top, it would be so cute for our belly-to-baby pics we’re having taken!

Oh, and lots of skincare products like organic lotions (paraben-free,) facials and massages, baby yoga videos.

For Sprout, I really want some Trumpette socks. And just lots of random cute stuff. My latest baby purchase was this super adorable doorway jumper:

I got it on supersale! Originally $69.99, I purchased this rockin’ convertible on for $34.99, minus a $10 first-purchase-credit, minus a $10 additional coupon code, for a grand total of $24.24 shipped! Can’t wait to see him/her cruising along in their new ride.

So, okay, I’ve definitely been bitten by the materialistic maternal bug, but seriously I just can’t wait to start setting up our nursery. It was painted last week, a bright, cheerful Key Lime color, and waiting to start filling it up with all things baby is killing me! As soon as we’re able to move the futon out, the crib can go in, and then it’ll really start seeming real.

Stay tuned for the big Gender Reveal!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prime Rib: Yummmmy- and worth the wait!

The Orange and Blue exhibition football game was this past weekend, and the day came and passed with lots of success for GatorTailgating. We had friends up to stay with us, the weather was perfect, and we cooked up some delish beer-can chicken with a tasty rub. A great day to tailgate.

But then it was all over, and the sad fact that more tailgating  is a full 4 months away hit us like a season-ending SEC loss. Low-spirited, we zipped up the tents, loaded up our coolers, and trudged unceremoniously back to our cars. None of us has any patience, after all, and here we were, forced with a 4-month wait… Although, to be fair, the boys have it way easier than I do- Sprout’s arrival coincides with the return of football/tailgating season, so I have the added luxury of waiting around with an ever-increasing belly girth to keep me company!

But, I digress. I decided that there surely must be a way to pass the time, something with a juicy, meaty reward that also has the added bonus of teaching us a thing or two about delayed gratification.

Of course! Prime Rib!

Lookit that beauty. Now, this is what’s called in the meat department as a “standing rib roast.” One bone should feed two people. I say should- Mike and I polished off this baby our ownselves. Be smart, err on the side of caution and buy the biggest hunk of meat you can afford. No matter where you get your rib roast, you will not be sorry!

*I ask my butcher to cut the meat off the bone and tie it back on with twine- this helps tremendously when carving the meat later.

Here’s what you need:

Standing rib roast. Butter (REAL butter, now! No cheating!) Salt. Pepper. That’s it!

First, turn the oven onto 500 degrees, and remove all but one rack- place it in the second to lowest setting. While the oven’s heating up- it takes awhile to get that hot- let the roast come to room temperature.

Next, take a big hunk of butter and rub it in your hands to soften and warm it. You’re about to become the world’s best meat masseuse.

Take your hunk of meat, stand it rib-side down in a roasting pan (I just use the bottom half of my broiler pan) and give it a good rubbing. Really get in there and massage the butter into the meat.

*You didn’t think this was diet-friendly, did you? C’mon, I’m preggers. What’s the point?

Once your rib roast is slathered up good and buttery, sprinkle on a generous amount of salt and pepper.

It’s important to make sure it’s standing on the bones in the pan, so the meat is up above its own juices and can roast evenly.

Now, pop that hunk o' hunk o' buttery beef in the 500-degree oven and let it roast for 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES ONLY!!

…..and then turn the oven off.

Here’s the next part, which is when all the most wonderful things in the history of prime rib happen. You leave the roast in the oven for 2 hours.


See, the residual heat after turning the oven off will slow-roast the prime rib until it is absolutely perfect- cooked slightly medium at the ends, but a warm pink medium-rare all throughout the rest of the roast. So you wanna just leave it well enough alone. Go mow your lawn. Walk your dog. Watch a movie. Anything to keep you from peeking, because once you let some of the heat out, the cook time is ruined- you can’t get that heat back. Yikes!

In 2 hours, after you’ve nibbled your nails to nubs and paced the floor in anticipation, it’s time to take the roast out of the oven.

Cut the twine, remove the bones, and feed them to any good dogs you may have in the vicinity. We didn’t have any good dogs around, only bad ones, but they’ll do it a pinch.

Next, take the remaining roasty goodness and slice it for the number of servings you need.

I strongly advise you to not let the hungry mob gathering in your kitchen serve themselves- the first person in line will quite possibly walk off with the whole platter, never to be seen again.

At some point, you’re gonna want to set out some sour cream to mix with a spoonful or two of prepared horseradish.

We love creamy horseradish upon our prime rib, but it’s really up to each individual to mix it to their own degree of spiciness- plus it’ll create a diversion so you can make off with more roast.

I’m just sayin’.

So here you have it, folks, the best prime rib ever, ever EVER. This method is guaranteed to work regardless of the size of your roast, is eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head tasty, and may help pass the time until tailgating season.

Be warned, though- whoever you feed this to will spend the rest of the day in a meaty stupor, stammering their undying affection for you. If you feel this could get annoying, I recommend scheduling an appointment immediately following the meal so you can get some peace and quiet.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Weekend 2010

A little something to know about Mike and me- we aren’t Easter people. We just aren’t very religious, and while I am all about wearing pastels and eating coconut-covered bunny  cakes from the grocery store, we just don’t have much of a reason to partake in traditional Easter type traditions. So we’ve pretty much made our own Easter weekend tradition of gettin’ the heck out of dodge. One year we went boating in Cedar Key, ate clams, and drank beer. Last year we went kayaking on Orange Lake, ate chicken, and drank beer. This year, we went beachin’ on Amelia Island, ate all kinds of tasty local vittles…. And drank *non-alcoholic* beer. (By the way, Beck’s makes a tasty N/A if you’re in the market for beer flavor without all the other benefits that beer generally offers.)

I had a gift certificate for a free night at the Amelia Hotel on the Beach, a comfortable select-service property that is literally steps from the soft sandy beach. It’s a little bit of an older property, but our room had a view of the ocean and a fabulous whirlpool tub that Mike Baby paid an upgrade for me to get, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was one of the best parts of the trip, to have a leisurely soak in a bathtub! (Mine’s broken at home, so only showers for the pregnant lady. Bor-ing.) After check-in, we headed downtown to Historic Fernandina Beach to check out the farmers’ market and the local shops. The farmers’ market was packed with people, so we didn’t linger long- but we had enough time to sample some delish natural-raised pork products! After much debate, we made off with some link sausages that will soon be grilled up with onions and mushrooms for dinner. Yumm. We also picked up some local strawberries to much on while we strolled about, and enjoyed browsing the little shops along the way- the Trailer Park Collectibles, the local bookstores, and an interesting store that had lots of fossils and sharks’ teeth.

We meandered our way to the waterfront cafĂ© for lunch, and noshed on dip of crabby, creamy, cheese goodness; a shrimp and crab quiche with sweet potato salad (me); and a Cuban with lobster bisque (Mike.) Stuffed silly, we returned to the hotel for a nap and a walk on the beach before washing up and heading to Amelia Plantation for a look around. We found a lovely spot in front of the spa, with rocking chairs and a pretty view, to relax for a few minutes and just talk (the amazing smells wafting from the spa didn’t hurt either!)

Amelia Plantation was beautiful, but I will say this- resorts like that could be anywhere, near any beach, and there wouldn’t be anything very distinctive about it. There were chain shops on the premises- Chico’s, etc., and the spa, while truly gorgeous, was comparable to other spas I’ve visited. We appreciated our visit, but as we rocked, we talked about our values in regards to travel and we agree that for us, travel is more about enjoying an area as it is- we prefer unique experiences that provide us with the local feel and flavor more than the all-inclusive, Anywhere, USA (and beyond) ambiance that resorts like this tend to have. Sure, there’s a focus on high-quality service, but when it comes down to it, if the idea is to never leave the resort, then what’s the point of traveling far to get there? You may as well go to the resort down the street!

Anyhow, after our leisurely stroll around Amelia Plantation, we picked up a few treats- Stewarts’ Key Lime and Orange Cream sodas and a refreshing tropical Pure Fuji starfruit candle for my office- and we headed back downtown to catch our sunset cruise along the intercoastal waterway. The cruise was lovely, with some narration and a good view of the wild horses at Cumberland Island, and after a beautiful sunset we returned for dinner at 29 South Eats.

29 South is one of the great examples of local flavor! They are a farm-to-table restaurant that uses as many local, natural vendors as they can, and even have a garden of their own behind the building! We gobbled up our pulled pork spring roll appetizer, and our entrees were to die for- tempura lobster with a lavender honey-mustard glaze over buttermilk mashed potatoes for Mike, and a sweet-tea marinated pork chop over homemade mac and cheese, drizzled with blackberry preserves for me. Quadruple yum! But nothing- NOTHING- could’ve prepared us for dessert. I kept seeing all these reviews for the restaurant, and even the bad reviews claimed that the dessert was the best they’d ever had; many confessed they even returned a second time just for dessert. What was this irresistible confection? Coffee and Donuts. As in, a krispy kreme bread pudding. Topped with mocha ice cream. On a drizzle of caramel. With a strawberry garnish. And when they came to take our plate away, there was nothing left but the memory. Oh. My. Gawd. Thinking about it now makes me want to stop typing immediately and drive the 2.5 hours back to Amelia Island just to get one. It’s that good!

After dinner, we rolled ourselves back into the car and headed back to the room to change, and then we wandered over to the beachfront bar across from our hotel. We had a drink or two- again, my Becks’ non-alcoholic brew was quite tasty- and listened to waves crashing for a bit before turning in. A great first day!

We spend Easter Sunday morning on the beach getting some sun before everyone else showed up after church and brunch, and had fun reading and playing in the sand. I crafted a lovely sand fish which Mike devilishly crushed, cackling wildly, and after that a devastated, pouty, you-just-pissed-in-my-Cheerios Tammy decided it was time to go. We grabbed a quick bite back in the downtown area and then made our way back to G-ville, relaxed and refreshed- a lovely weekend!

We did decide over the course of the weekend that we’re going to test the waters on selling our kayaks in favor of other agua-based activities- a little jon boat for Mike and a bathtub for me.  But we’ll see where that goes. We prepared for the transition by dusting our trusty Hobies off and taking them out for pictures to post once we make our decision for sure. Loading and unloading the ‘yaks was a lot of work, though, so afterward we treated ourselves to sushi (Bento does a great deal on Sunday, buy 3 rolls, get a signature roll free!) and saw Hot Tub Time Machine at the movies, which was sooo friggin’ cute and funny! We really enjoyed the characters and the jokes and it was a great way to end the day!

A few more weekend pics:

Hope everyone else had as happy an Easter as we did!