Tuesday, December 30, 2014


So... here's how it goes:

Christmas Eve, I went to bed with the plan to get up around 6 a.m. My alarm was set. The idea was that Jason and I would get up, we'd pull everything together, get the baby up, and head straight over to my in-laws' home for Christmas morning breakfast, presents, and then over to Jason's grandparents' house for the extended family Christmas. I had it all planned out, you guys. I was Super Mom. We had the presents for everyone ready to go in the car in their own special laundry basket, her diaper bag was already packed, the milk just needed to move from fridge to car, I had her outfit laid out.

We were ready!

Then the baby woke up at 11:15 pm.

And then again at 2 a.m.

And then again at 4:45.

Jason took her first two wakeups, and I took the last one.

She ate (and ate and ate and ate) and then was all smiles and giggles and ready for the day. So we played in her nursery for a while, until my alarm went off to tell me it was 6 and time to go wake Jason up so we could get ourselves moving.
Very, very slowly...

but moving.

Audra, because her sense of timing is spot-on, fell asleep pretty much exactly as we were planning to open presents. We laid her down and opened presents anyway, because she is a baby and she does not decide these things. Then she woke back up and we played with her until she fell asleep again...

right as we were getting ready to head up to Jason's grandparents' for the extended family Christmas.

Because, again, she has impeccable timing.

My mother-in-law hung back with her while she slept, although really the theme of any holiday is "the baby cuts her own naps short because she can psychically sense people who want to snuggle her somewhere nearby", and we went and had lunch and then Audra received her new favorite toy in the entire world:

A giraffe stroller toy with feet that jingles or crinkle or chime, each foot does something different. And each and every one of those feet, according to my daughter, is delicious.

Audra had quite the haul this Christmas - new clothes, new toys (even a doll, thanks to my Grandma Swearingen finding the only Baby Stella doll that wasn't pink and frilly, and the doll has a little dinosaur pacifier and it is wonderful and we love it forever and always), new books, these floor tiles that it turns out are pretty much the size of most of her bedroom floor, and the best present - her own Christmas stocking, cross-stitched and handmade by Jason's Nana, Grandaddy, and my mother-in-law helped finish putting it together at the end. It has her name on it, and it's beautiful. It's absolutely beautiful.

Of course, this year toys just sort of appear in her life and she accepts them with all the simple "of course there's a teddy bear, there was always a teddy bear right?" understanding infants can have. Next year we can start having some fun with it; stocking stuffers she can actually pull out, Santa's presents being something she can really discover, cookies and milk and carrots for the reindeer... all that fun stuff.

Friday night we had the extended family Christmas for Jason's dad's family, which meant a few more hours of watching while my baby happily went from relative to relative. She's very chill about being handed around, which I love; I was the baby who went to all and sundry and I think it made me very good about new people. That plus daycare, I'm hoping, will make her able to handle just about any social situation a baby can get herself into.

Of course, now that we can plan for her first seriously fun Christmas...

that means I'm going to have to start saving for it.

Like right now.

Which I will totally do, just as soon as paying off the baby's birth + daycare + Christmas + mortgage + bills + car taxes + student loans + all that food we have to eat to stay alive (silly us, right?) stops making us flat broke.

Which at this point should be...

I don't know, sometime just before she goes to college?

I'm kidding. We're not flat broke.

Just... mostly broke.

She's totally worth it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Christmas Eve

We made faces at the rain, opened up Santa's presents early (since, um, it's not like Audra can really open them just yet and trust me, Santa understands that we'll be elsewhere tomorrow and needed them early), went out for lunch at Greenfield's Deli (corned beef sandwich for Jason, smoked salmon on a bagel for me - plus crumb cake!), came home and fought sleep like a banshee, then slept like a rock, then played with her new teddy bear from Santa, had a bath, and now we are fighting sleep once again. Although this time rather than yell, she's simply trying to keep herself awake by repeating the "ah" sound over and over and over and over and over and over and she's totally losing the fight.

Happy Christmas Eve, little girl.

I hope we made your first one fun.

(Next year you'll get to open one present yourself)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

5 Things - the Christmas Adam Edition

1. When Jason was a little kid, it was just him and his cousin Monica on his mom's side of the family. They were pretty much a team from day one. She's a couple of years younger than Jason is, and they are polar opposites in every photo - Jason's hair a slight reddish blonde and curly, Monica's hair straight and nearly jet-black. Don't mind the above photo, by the way - Jason was just helping.

Jason and Monica did not hurt for presents at Christmas, but being kids, they were always on the lookout for a way to get a couple more.

They were allowed to open a present on Christmas Eve, after some cajoling from the two of them.

At which point Jason argued, quite logically, that Adam came before Eve, therefore they should get to open a present on Christmas Adam, too. And then Christmas Creatures That Move Along the Ground, which would obviously be preceded by Creatures That Swim in the Seas, and so on and so forth until the entire Creation story was completely covered.

Somehow, this argument never quite took hold.

He can still make a pretty good case for it, though.

2. I know, I know. I'll stop posting stuff from Baby Gap eventually. Maybe. Someday.

Aren't these the cutest onesies? There's this one and then one that says "Daddy's Sunshine". Both of which are true; she is our alarm clock and our sunshine and often both at the same time. It's hard to maintain my grumpy morning growling and snarling when there's a little face that just beams happiness up at me when I go to pick her up in the morning.

I just wish she did a little less beaming happiness in the middle of the night.

And a lot less of it at 5 a.m.

I've also got my eye on this absolutely beautiful little dress - as well as the hooded sweatshirt and pants in the featured outfit with it. I've discovered if I really, really stalk sales I can make Baby Gap (semi) affordable. So I will keep eyeballing it. And probably end up with an outfit for a baby way bigger than mine, which is what ended up happening with the winter dress I wanted - I have it for her for next year now. But I have it, and it was cheap.

I win again, Baby Gap.


I guess since you still got my money I really... really didn't.

3. One of my favorite true stories about Christmas things ever. NPR put up an article laying out the creation and evolution of the NORAD "Santa Tracker" - a misprinted phone number, the Red Phone only two people are ever supposed to know how to call, and a man with a sense of how important it is to let children see the world as one with magic in it.

Even if it's magic transmitted over a phone line.

Go read it, if you haven't seen it yet. It's a sweet story, and we could use a little more in the way of sweet stories in the world right now.

4. Fran, over on my favorite style blog, is talking photoshopping, the "skinny app", and what bloggers changing their entire image means for viewers, for fans, and for the bloggers themselves. It's true; there's a sense that you need to chase the "perfect image". One thing I definitely noticed is that blogs that have that skinny-girl look get the repins, the retweets, the fans. Even if what they're writing about is ostensibly not about style or looks or anything - that doesn't matter. The "aspirational" idea that blogs are often chasing essentially requires you to fit the sort of overall Hollywood beauty aesthetic - skinny, long hair, trendy clothing, etc.

I have noticed that there seems to be a disconnect between the attention that some blogs get vs. others, even if they are of equal quality and are writing about the same thing - if one person is a skinny-minnie or chasing the latest trends, she'll get those retweets before the one who isn't. I've noticed that with my own blog, too. While I often write about local events, shops, or restaurants, I have been frustrated before wondering just what it is a specific other blogger, whose post was much shorter, lacking detail, and I felt less entertaining than my own - did differently than I to warrant more retweets or attention. Usually I've felt that it came down to that other blogger fitting a specific look or niche, something that more easily garners attention from those just clicking around the web.

Part of that is just a natural result of the fact that I'm not a "photo-focused" blogger, like lifestyle or fashion or home decor. I write about my life, which is sometimes funny and sometimes not, and the photos are meant to support the writing, not to be the shining star of the post. It's harder to get attention if you don't fit an easy "popular category" with lots of brightly-lit photos and a DSLR camera to boot, and it's much harder to get attention if the people who would otherwise be able to boost your signal with retweets, reblogs, and other things have a very specific person in mind and that person doesn't look or sound like you.

Bloggers tend to fall prey to this pressure - photoshop themselves skinny, wear clothing "just for the blog", creating outfits that look ridiculous and out of place (Bloggers wearing winter coats in a South Carolina September, for instance - because the fashion magazines and clothing stores have begun selling fall/winter clothing and the blogger is trying to catch that particular trend wave), wear jewelry they'd never wear in real life because it was sent to them for free, have their writing voice suddenly become stilted and false as they attempt to fit as many brand-name catchphrases into a single post as possible, as they push to be so bland they can't possibly be controversial - which is what the brands are looking for. It's weird to see what it takes to become a "name" in the blogging world at this point, but then of course I have to remind myself...

It doesn't matter what it takes.

Maybe I don't get that extra attention, but I get the kind that matters - the attention that doesn't particularly care if I'm skinny or if my scarf has a monogram, what brand my boots are or whether or not I wear any makeup at all. Frankly, it's an attention I feel is more genuine - those who continue to read this blog do so because they're invested in the posts I write (and, yes, in cute baby photos) and will continue to read those posts even if I post a photo in which my tennis shoes are ten years old and I'm wearing a sweater I wore in college.

I like that particular attention, those particular readers. They're who I'm here for.

Everyone else can just go photoshop themselves into a corner.

5. On a more cheerful (and Christmas-y) note... this pillow is the cutest thing ever.

From Tamara Bontorno at Gus Sue Design on Etsy.

Other Christmas etsy stuff I'm making googly eyes at?

This neat little personalized Christmas tree toy, tamales are Christmas-y right?, thick knit Fair Isle sweaters it will never be cold enough here for me to wear, this pretty holiday print.


That's my five.

I'll see you kids when I have more cute baby photos!

Christmas cute baby photos.

Monday, December 22, 2014


I haven't had a haircut since before Audra was born.

This morning, I dropped her off for a half-day at daycare, went out to Atlanta Bread Company and had two delightfully slow cups of coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and a cheese danish. And I took my sweet, sweet time and the coffee wasn't cold when I finished it. I wandered aimlessly around Old Navy looking at sweaters. I could take all the time I wanted.

I think I'm beginning to like this 'daycare' concept.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Which My Dreams Come True

Uh, in a way.

So Audra's got a bit of a cold. It's probably from her two days in the church daycare, and I'm actually glad for her to get it. It's been a pretty mild one, so it's a good introduction to the Land of Constant Illnesses, otherwise known as Parenting A Child Who Is Around Sixteen Other Children All Day. The upside is that she really has been a champ about it; we only had one bad night, all things considered, and only one fever I felt the need to actually dose.

The downside is that she promptly gave that cold to me.

I woke up this morning with a pounding, pounding headache. Well, I actually woke up with three headaches. I had one sleep deprivation headache from waking up between 3:30 and 4 am and just being UP the last two days in a row, one muscle-based headache in my neck from sleeping funny, and a sinus headache from the cold. I called in to work, had Jason take Audra to her sitter, and took a nap.

So I woke up with two headaches. Which is definitely better than three.

Then I went to go pick Audra up from her sitter and grabbed some (more) coffee on the way. After my latte, two of my three headaches have gone. I take my victories where I find them.

Except that none of that is what I actually wanted to write about today.

There's a new bookstore coming to downtown Greenville in May!

Downtown has been lacking a bookstore in a big way. We've got Joe's Place, which is a used book store and wine bar/coffee place and while it's nice, it's not exactly what I've been thinking I'd really like to see. What I've been craving is something for Greenville that would be what Malaprop's is to Asheville, NC; a quirky local bookstore that has lots of local writers featured, a cafe where you can grab some coffee and food, enough fun stuff to keep you distracted and shopping far longer than you originally intended...

Well, now we're going to get it.

M. Judson won't open until May, but they're in the process of renovating a really cool old building downtown next to the Westin hotel, and they've got a pop-up shop open on weekends leading up to Christmas (they've got one more weekend where they'll have the pop-up shop open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so if you're local make sure you hit it up!). Jason and I had a couple of errands to run downtown Sunday, so we packed up our (snotty, congested) baby and took her on a good stroller walk. She actually rallied spectacularly; being outside seemed to be the best thing for her.

I snagged a latte (and a hot chocolate for Jason) from Coffee Underground, along with a couple of bagels, and we let ourselves wander around the park and get in to no particular hurry. It was really nice, actually. We even ended up running into Jason's parents outside of Blue Ridge Brewery and had brunch with them! Basically, an awesome Sunday. It was on our way back that we discovered M. Judson's pop-up shop, and I found the best kids' book I've ever seen:

Okay, so I found two books. I don't think anyone who knows me actually thought I'd get away buying just one.

Louise Loves Art was the first one I saw, and I am seriously head over heels. Louise is setting up her perfect gallery of her work, and her little brother Arthur keeps getting in the way trying to 'help'. The artwork is lovely, and the text is spare but absolutely perfect. I knew we were buying that book by the time I got to the end and hormones made me tear up from how adorable it was.

The other book we picked up is a colors primer based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. My friend Sarah has a bunch of these type of literary primers for her kiddo, and I love them. I'm picking them up wherever I can.

Basically, M. Judson is going to be everything I've been daydreaming about for downtown Greenville.

Which means it's probably going to be Jason's nightmare.

I mean, Audra's little bookshelf is already completely full and she can't even sit up on her own, let alone read. Am I going to let that stop me, though?

I can always build her another bookshelf...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Adventures in Childcare

I've been trying to write some variation on this post all week. I've been a little busy at work, distracted when I'm not busy, with a brain that works on roughly the same level as the brain of a ferret hyped up on too much caffeine. It just hasn't happened.

Part of it has just been that this week has been a touch different than most - my friend who keeps Audra during the day was in Las Vegas having a much-needed vacation. Jason and I had to scramble to cover the childcare a bit, and we ended up with sort of an interesting puzzle of a solution.

For two days, she went to Emergency Daycare at a local church daycare that I'd already had my eye on in case they had any permanent openings later on. It seemed like a great way to sort of introduce myself to them, let them get to see that Audra is totally better than other babies, and hopefully kind of nudge my foot on in the door.

For one day, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend kept her at my in-laws' house.

The next day, my father-in-law took off work and he and sister-in-law had her.

On top of that, we planned last night to be her first Night Away From Home. She stayed overnight with my in-laws and Jason picked her back up today.

This all seemed perfectly doable beforehand. And it was doable! Just distracting and kind of crazy in retrospect.

Day One, I ran her by the church since it was on my way to work anyway, and it gave Jason and I about twenty minutes' extra time in the morning since he wasn't trying to make it to our friend's house before work. This all seemed lovely and luxurious until I realized I was kind of running late because I'd let myself get too luxurious. Of course, 'running late' for me still means 'running on time', so it mattered to absolutely no one but me...


I dropped her off and was greeted by three cheerful ladies, a couple of toddlers, and two or three babies already either dozing or sitting in this adorable little table full of baby chairs. They advised me to put Audra in one.

I did, then I sort of hesitated and just stood there, staring at her. "Can you tell I'm a first-time mom?" I asked one of the ladies, as my feet steadfastly refused to move.

"Everyone's nervous the first time," She said.

Audra, previously distracted by a little boy a few seats away, turned to look me right in the eye.

I realized, looking at her tiny little body, so small inside these chairs, looking at me with this sort of curious plaintive face... I was about to walk out the door and leave my four-month-old baby in the care of three women I had never spoken to before in my entire life.

For eight hours straight.

Sooooooo that would be when I started crying right there, in front of those nice cheerful church ladies.

They sort of cooed and comforted me and told me she would be fine, they would send me photos, what was my number, it would be okay, it's fine, lots of moms cry like this, they've seen this before, it's perfectly normal but she'll be okay, etc and so forth...

About a thousand ways to call in sick to work ran through my mind, a thousand reasons or excuses to give, a thousand variations on Jason's face when I told him I just couldn't do it, honey, I couldn't leave her. Then a different thousand variations on his inevitable gentle reminder that I was going to have to do this eventually anyway.

I said goodbye, and I left her furiously studying the facial expressions of the 6-month-old boy near her. I got in my car, pulled out to go to work, and then promptly pulled into a gas station basically across the street, where I cried some more, went inside with my horrible red face and got a latte from the lady working the made-fresh area at the QT (who made my latte exactly to my liking, and had the grace not to ask me any questions), then drove to work feeling stretched thin.

The nice church ladies not only sent a photo, they sent a couple of updates on how much she'd had to eat and how she was doing. By the time I picked her up that night, she had gone through all three outfits I'd packed and was snoozing happily in a hideously ugly 90's-era Mickey Mouse shirt and black and white checkered pants the daycare kept for just such an occasion.

I took her home, and I laid down on the floor with her on her playmat and hugged her until she squirmed away.

Then I got myself up Wednesday morning and I did it again.

Wednesday was a lot easier. The church ladies were familiar faces by now, and Audra smiled at them right away. I only lingered a minute or so longer than necessary.

They asked me to dress her in Christmas pajamas and said they were "doing pictures" that day. It didn't occur to me what that actually meant until Thursday, when I received a text letting me know that the proofs were in.

They did professional Christmas pictures of the babies in a little chair, in their PJ's! So despite my abject laziness in getting together an appointment for professional shots like I had planned, I got them anyway! Yay for laziness!

I mean - that's probably not the lesson I should take away from this, but... you know what don't judge me.

This time when I picked her up it was a little bit earlier than the previous day - the toddlers were still running around with toys, and a few babies snoozing in the little cribs (including mine). I took a second to look around. A little girl about the age of my friend's baby walked up to me and set a little stuffed toy at my feet, gave me a penetrating stare, smacked on her pacifier like Maggie from the Simpsons, and then wandered off.

"Are you sure you don't have any permanent openings?" I asked hopefully.

None yet. My fingers are still crossed, though.

This time I didn't feel like I had to hold her forever to make up for the day. I could see she'd been in a place with lots of fun - if, uh, lots of noise also (welcome to more than two children in any given location).

I felt good about all of this. I felt like I had redeemed myself in the eyes of the nice church ladies, hardly tearing up at all that second day. I felt like a grown-up Business Lady Doing Business Stuff rather than a scared kid who totally isn't old enough to be somebody's mother no matter what my driver's license or Audra's birth certificate might say.

The last two days, she was at Jason's parents' house, spending her days with his little sister who was on a short break from her medical program.

So, basically, she spent two days with people she already knew really well anyway. My sister-in-law's boyfriend fed her for the first time. She came back at night just tired and chill and having been fawned over and loved on all day long. She is definitely not a baby who hurts for attention, people.

Friday I went over to see her briefly after work, had dinner with everyone, and then we began the Grand Experiment of leaving her overnight with someone who is not me.

It went perfectly fine.

I took the long way driving home so I could listen to the first part of the This American Life program, winding around the quick roads home to take the longer ones. There was no baby in the backseat whose nap I was trying to time, no worry on bottles getting too warm in the car. I just... went home in my own time.

I took a bubble bath, and read some magazines on the couch. I kept catching myself thinking I heard Audra and having to remember that that would have been physically impossible. I made cups of tea for Jason and I that we actually finished while the tea was still warm.

I thought I heard her again.

I made it away from my daughter for a whole two hours before I texted to see how she was.

I fell asleep reading magazines in bed at like 8:45. I woke up at 9:30 thinking that Audra would need to have her last feeding for the night. I wandered out to ask Jason if he would do it, realized where she was, considered texting one more time and talked myself out of it, told Jason goodnight and then went back to bed and slept forever.

Well, sort of.

I woke up at 4:30 thinking that I hadn't heard the baby in a while, panicked, and had to remember she wasn't even in the house.

I gave up trying to go back to sleep at 4:45.

So, on this day that I could sleep in, in the blessed quiet of a baby-less morning... I woke up before dawn anyway.

On the up side, I had a little extra time to run by Starbucks before work and heavily caffeinate myself.

Plus, my mother-in-law sent me a photo wherein the baby had the same expression I have every single morning for the first two hours of my day:

She may look nothing like me, but at least we share expressions sometimes.

Now that she's done one night away from me I'm totally ready for Jason and I's planned trip to spend a night in Asheville soon, right?


... right?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

If I Can't Have a White Christmas, I Can At Least Have White Chocolate (Tea Box Express)

I received my Tea Box Express box for December this week! Andrea sent it a little early so that I would be able to show all of you in time for you to order your own. Remember, the cutoff for the December box was put at December 15th this month, so you still have a few days to make sure you get this box!

Which you totally want to do.

Trust me.

If you won't just take my word for it, take these words for it:

Cookie. Brittle.

We'll get to that in a moment, though. 

When I opened December's box, the first thing I saw? A fluffy white bow. In my experience, fluffy bows always bode well when it comes to Christmas. Just across the board. You can never go wrong with fluffy bows.

See, look at how fluffy it is.

The theme for this month is "Tea and Cookies for Santa", which to be frank kind of gave me an idea for Audra's eventual Santa-related adventures. I'm not much of a glass-of-milk drinker, so I kinda think leaving out a warm mug of tea sounds like a great plan. Although I suppose we'd have to come up with some kind of explanation for why Santa would drink a mug of tea that will have gone cold long before he shows up with presents.

Maybe it's magical tea that stays warm forever?

She'll buy that. If she's half as gullible as I am, she will.

This month's tea especially you could definitely ascribe magical properties to.

Candy cane tea!

My original plan was to have it as a dessert tea, but seeing as it's black tea I decided instead to drink it for my morning caffeine fix the next day with Jason. I actually regret that choice; while it is black tea, it's incredibly mild and definitely would have worked better as an afternoon pick-me-up or a dessert tea. I wouldn't call this a morning tea at all. It definitely didn't feel like it had a strong enough caffeine kick for morning; I ended up drinking coffee later at work.

Those of you who maybe aren't quite an inured to the effects of caffeine as I am may like this in the morning, actually. I am a shameless Starbucks addict, so the caffeine level may be just right for someone who isn't looking up self-help books on how to quit sweet, sweet lattes like I am. I think it's probably a good Sunday-morning tea, when you don't have to hurry and you can really enjoy it.

That said, the very mild black tea leaves were nice because they gave the peppermint flavors more time to shine. Even the mint is not particularly overwhelming; 'Candy Cane' is a really apt name for it, because it's less like peppermint candies and more like candy canes themselves. I put honey and milk in, as usual, but in the future would skip the honey; this tea only needs a little milk for me to be delicious. It came in pyramid-shaped tea bags, which were very pretty in and of themselves; I think this would be great if you were having a small party and you could lay the tea bags out for guests to pick up.

Speaking of...

One of this month's "tea accessories"; tongs made for picking your tea bag out of your mug when you're done steeping, keeping your fingers dry and all the work out of getting the bag back out. It goes right along with my sort of mental idea of all the tea bags laid out on a dish for guests to put in their mugs - this would be perfect for that.

Jason really liked that they even say 'tea' along the edges. He liked that so much he brought it up at least three times in two days. I liked it so much I brought it up a couple times more.

I tried them out on the candy cane tea and then immediately put them in our silverware drawer to use later. They're super cute; another thing that I think works really well as a gift. This whole month's tea box would be great as somebody's White Elephant gift. I'm actually even more sad that I'm not able to go back to Illinois for Christmas this year - my mom's family does a White Elephant now and this would be perfect. Now, granted, I would have had to purchase a second box for the White Elephant since there'd be no way I'd be willing to give up that cookie brittle I haven't explained to you yet.

I imagine my aunt Lisa would make sure she got the second box, or she would go down in blazes trying. That's why I'd have to get a second box - there's no way I'm winning that fight. I have weak little arms. Honestly, it's a shock I can open pickle jars.

The other 'tea accessory' for this month - an ornament! It's a little teapot with a poinsettia and an attached tiny teacup. I'm sorry, all I can think of is Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast.

This. Is. Adorable.

It's a smaller ornament, and I love it, and we haven't ever done our own Christmas tree so I have nowhere to put it. This is a crisis, people.

A crisis.

I am currently debating hanging it from my front door, just to ensure the like three people other than Jason and I who will enter our house in December get to see it.

That seems reasonable, right?

Perfectly reasonable.


Okay, so I pulled this cookie out and went, "Ooooh, White Chocolate Cranberry! Oh, and gluten-free... oh. Well. I'll try it anyway." I said this out loud. To my dog, since he and I were the only ones there at the moment. He cocked his head in a way that made it clear that he would happily eat it for me if I really needed him to.

He's a giver that way.

I'm not anti-gluten-free, but I've had gluten-free cookies before? And I've been burned, people. My heart was broken by those cookies; dry and crumbling and kind of flavorless and just simply not right. So while I was of course going to try this, I wasn't particularly hopeful about it.

Until later that night, when I split that cookie in half and Jason and I each took our first bites.

At which point I seriously considered taking his half of the cookie away and telling him to go find something else, all of this cookie was mine, all cookies like this were mine forever and I'm pretty sure that's in our wedding vows so he can't argue with me, he knew what he was doing when he signed that marriage license.

Crumbly? No.

Dry? Not at all.

Not right? Oh no, my friends.

This cookie was perfectly right.

 The white chocolate wasn't in chips like I expected, but a flavor that went through the whole cookie. The cranberries added just the right amount of tart, and the cookie itself was nice and chewy, not too dense. I couldn't even taste the lack of wheat and gluten, which normally changes the taste and texture enough to be really obvious in baking. The Wow Baking Company knows their stuff.

(I should know, by the way; I used to work in a Christopher & Banks in a mall back in Carbondale, Illinois. There was a Gloria Jean's in that mall, instead of a Starbucks, and they carried a line of gluten-free and/or vegan cookies. I think I had tried each and every iteration of those cookies by the time I stopped working in that mall. They were... wildly varied.)

If you're the type who likes to lay out baked goods for partygoers to munch on, but you've got someone gluten-free and you're not sure what to do? Look up Wow Baking Company.

(Or, y'know, skip all that rigamarole and just get 'em a Tea Box Express gift for Christmas. Then you eat the other dessert, and they can have this cookie. And you will be jealous of their cookie.)

Well, or maybe you won't, since the other option is this.

I mentioned cookie brittle, before. I mentioned it to get you all hyped up and interested and then I wandered all over everything else in the box without ever coming back to it.

Well. We're back to it now.

I'm not sure where the 'brittle' in the name comes from - these were more like exceptionally sweet and slightly crumbly biscotti to me. There's a layer of delicious cookie, with a top layer of dark chocolate, chocolate drizzle, and toffee bits on top.

It reminded me of a really classed-up Twix bar, in some ways, with the cookie and chocolate mix. But this was not 'chocolate flavor'. This was real crispy-crumbly cookie, real, smooth dark chocolate, and it was a serious problem to keep myself from eating the whole box at once. (I did not, by the way. I do have some self-control. Sometimes. When Jason is home and would see my shame.)

The toffee bits give it a neat salted-caramel aftertaste. I would buy a box of these to lay out on a platter for the party that this entire box so far seems obviously geared for. Just about everything in it works perfectly for this fictional Christmas-themed tea party I'm throwing with my friend Sarah, who won't know she's the other hostess until she reads this post.

So... thanks, Sarah!

Hope you're having fun hosting that party.

In short, overall I really liked this box! The Candy Cane tea is a weaker black tea than I normally go for, but actually works really well as a dessert tea or something to sip in the late afternoon when you've got a few minutes to just chill and enjoy some peace and quiet (during your baby's nap, for example, once the fighting and the fussing and the oh god just lay down already why why won't you lay down has ceased).

The cookie and cookie brittle were both delicious; I was very impressed by the gluten-free cookie and, as I have a couple of gluten-free family members now, I'll be making some serious recommendations. The cookie brittle? Well, the crumbs littered around me should tell you how I felt about that.

The tea accessories are little more for someone else than they are for me - we mostly drink looseleaf teas (although I'm glad to have the little tongs now that I have the Candy Cane tea and have bagged teas again!) and we don't have a Christmas tree. It's an ornament I'll be holding onto, though, since we plan to do a tree next year when Audra's old enough to start enjoying seeing it and we only have like... four ornaments of our own so far. A tea-based ornament seems like it would be a good accompaniment to my Starbucks-themed ornament. Look, it's the two kinds of drink that make up half my blood volume!

Remember that you've got just a few more days to pick up December's box - December 15th will be the final day! Snag it before the deadline's over and you're left sad and bereft. I will pity you, from my chair, with my mug of Candy Cane tea and my cookie brittle in hand. I will pity you your tea-less existence.

Don't make me pity you.

* This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nifty discount and monthly box a bit early, I show you what's in it and tell you what I think about it. Everyone wins, especially me! I get tea and cookies. And especially you! Because you get a look at what you could should be ordering. But especially me. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me and ask away! If you do decide to sign up, either for your own subscription or to give one as a gift to someone else, please let them know you totally got the idea from me, that you like me - you really, really like me!

... and I'm done with the pop culture references.

For now.

November's Review here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

And That's Why You Stick to the Schedule

If you've seen me in the last four months or so, odds are you've seen this big black bag, too. It's my Medela Pump In Style, and it's the reason we're not dropping insane amounts of money on formula. It has been my best friend since Audra's birth and it follows me everywhere, at least when I can't schedule everything within four-hour increments to allow me to get back home in time.

Nearly my entire family came to visit me here for Thanksgiving - my parents, grandmother, sister, and niece drove from Illinois. My brother-in-law was the only immediate family missing, since my brother and his girlfriend were able to fly in from Texas as well. Only my parents had met Audra before, and so everyone came in to see her. I was giddy basically the whole weekend - due to having used up all my vacation time during my leave, I wasn't able to make it home for Christmas this year like I traditionally do, and it would have been next year before anyone in the family outside of my parents saw Audra otherwise.

I swear to you, I don't think I held that baby more than maybe half an hour a day for three days. She wasn't used to so many new faces passing her around and getting her to go to sleep at night was a bit of a struggle, but she soldiered on. She's a brave baby, that one. She accepts snuggles until the bitter end.

Anyway, while my family was in town I wanted to show them Greenville's amazing downtown. Falls Park and its waterfall are a huge draw, so I wanted to be sure I got them at least near the Liberty Bridge to get a good look at it. We started at Mast General Store, where mom bought Audra HER VERY OWN SMARTWOOL SOCKS for Christmas (and me this sweater in the Silver color - this is my favorite sweater and I have it in purple and want it in every color ever made forever and always), hit up O.P. Taylor's to show my niece our favorite toy store, stopped by Dark Corner Distillery where I may or may not have bought their pumpkin spice mixer and butterscotch 'shine (which I believe means I have bought every single one of their products EXCEPT for the Stumphouse Whiskey and the two college-themed 'shines. I'm sorry, I just don't care about South Carolina football that much. Please don't kill me.)

We had lunch at Smoke on the Water, a mainstay for us when my parents are visiting, and my mom, sister, and I were able to wander into The Petite Parade, a baby-store in downtown Greenville that is seriously a place I dream about being able to afford when Audra's a little older.

My mom, concerned about the chill in the air, bought Audra this little hat:

She wore said hat for the entire rest of the weekend.

Afterward, we spent our time in Falls Park where my niece immediately ended up getting a sock wet and I was able to stand on the bridge for about ten seconds before my fear of heights chased me back off.

Notice that in that long and rambling description of every. single. location. we went to that day, you didn't see anything about me ducking out to use the pump at any given time.

I had this idea that I would be fine to go about six hours, despite the fact that I try very hard to never go longer than four.

That first six hours would probably have been just fine, except that lots of visitors came by my in-laws' that night, so while I was able to pump at my house around 4:30 that afternoon before we went to my in-laws, I didn't while we were there because I am very, very Midwestern. It is deep within our nature to not want to be a bother or draw too much attention to ourselves.

So while my schedule normally is timed with a 6 am, 9 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, 7 pm, 9 pm, and then one 3 or 4 am pumping... well.

Friday went like this: the 3 am middle-of-the-night, 6 am, 9:30 AM, 4:30 pm, 9:45 pm.

Notice some numbers missing there?

That night, I began to be in rather a lot of pain. It was sharp and stabbing and radiated out into my inner organs and I told Jason it was definitely worse than I've felt before. Because we needed to be up and ready the next day, we got Audra back to sleep and I was ready for bed fairly early, by 10:15 or so. I just felt so terrible, worn-out and run down and hardly able to move, and hurt so much. All I wanted to do was go to bed.

When I lay down, the pain started to worsen, and realized that not only was I in pretty seriously 6 or 7 on a scale of 10 pain, but I was cold. Very, very cold. Despite wearing pajamas and being under four separate blankets in the bed. My legs also hurt like I had run three or four marathons, and I kept shifting and stretching them, reflexively trying to find a position that would make them hurt less. I couldn't. Everything hurt. I was so cold I was shaking. I could not stop shaking. At some point I started to cry, more out of frustration than anything else.

I did not call to Jason or tell him about this. I just lay in the bed, trying to figure out what to do. I didn't want to be an inconvenience to anyone, when my family had worked so hard to see me. I was mad, too; of course this would happen this weekend of all weekends. Of course. And explaining what had happened to my family the next morning was not something I was looking forward to.

Meanwhile, Jason was at the computer desk just killing some time before going to bed. He told me later that our dog Indy kept walking circles - tagging Jason, then heading into the kitchen towards our bedroom, then coming back again. Over and over. Jason thought he was just being restless, and was surprised to head into our bedroom to go to bed and find me lying there, still shaking, bawling like a little kid, yet completely unwilling to ask for help, because he had worked all day and I didn't want to bother him.

How I survive anything at all sometimes astounds me.

The last time he found me in pain like that was when we had to run to the ER a few years ago and I called him and, crying so hard I could barely breathe, said, "Um, I think we might need to go to the hospital?" but refused to commit to saying that we actually really did need to.

Because, you know, it's a bother to have to go somewhere like that and maybe I could just power through it.

In short, for having no pain tolerance whatsoever I am remarkably willing to just sit around and cry like a baby rather than be the reason anyone has to end their plans early.

I tried to explain what was going on, but was mostly just snuffles and sniffles and "I HURT I'M SO COLD I HURT" all over the place, which was just super helpful when Jason was trying to figure out exactly what it was that hurt and how much. Jason grabbed me a mug of hot water to drink, tried to get me warm, all to no avail. I shook like a dying fish no matter what we did. Eventually, he ran a super hot, basically scalding bath with some herbal bath salts from our last trip to Bryson City. The man is a Problem Solver, and he was going to Solve This Problem.

Which, turns out, the bath totally did.

I soaked in that bath for nearly forty minutes it felt like, eventually feeling some warmth filter back into my aching bones. I was still in a lot of pain overall. I went back out, was able to pump, and then went to bed shortly after midnight still shaking-cold but feeling significantly better. I'll just sleep, I thought. I'll get a good night's sleep and I'll feel better.

And I did! I felt better enough to take selfies with the baby Monday morning.

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning covered in sweat. Just coated with it, my skin burning up under blankets that hadn't been able to warm me at all two hours before. I ended up wandering the house for a while to cool back down, went to bed around 3 and then woke up for the day at 5 am, because even when I can sleep in, it just doesn't happen. Other than the residual ache, I've been basically fine ever since. I was able to hang out with my family without being too obviously run-down. It seemed to go as fast as it came on.

From what happened, I learned a valuable lesson.

Don't test the limits of motherhood too much, or your body will try to eat itself.


That's what I learned.