Monday, December 20, 2010

The Nest

Forgive me, FaceBook friends, for double-posting photos and descriptions. We're just a little excited over here at the Peacock Coop. I'm adding a little more detail here so as to avoid writing a novella in the FaceBook photo album.
... and so, without further ado, I present to you the Peachick's nursery. Come join me for a quick tour of our home since the invasion started. I love the color, even though it really doesn't show up well in photos. Mike picked it out: his inspiration was the color of the water in the Gulf during our trip to Rosemary Beach back in June. It's a sweet soft blue-green that makes me feel like I'm in a giant box from Tiffany's. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that.
I personally think the furniture is Asian-influenced, but Mike (who lived in Japan for four years when he was young) doesn't see it. The panels slide away to give access to shelves, and maybe my favorite part is the light in the top of the armoire that shines through the sliding panel - the perfect night light!
Mike says the mother-of-pearl mirror is "beachy," which was exactly my objective when I selected it. The sterling rattle on the left was how I broke the news to Mike that he was going to be a daddy. I wrapped it up in gold and white paper, and since he was on the midnight shift, I had to wait until he woke up around 4 PM to give it to him. He was still groggy and didn't have a clue what it was - I almost had to draw the man a picture!
The crib still needs a bedskirt, but we decided to forego bumper pads because they're a SIDS risk. At first I was a little sad about that, but then I figured if she's banging her head repeatedly against the side of her bed, we have bigger problems to worry about.
Seems like everywhere you turn in the house, there's a baby thing.
She even has her own drawer in the kitchen! You know I must love somebody dearly to give her one of my drawers and space in my kitchen cabinets. Every now and then, when I get overwhelmed by hormones and all the change that's about to happen and start to think I won't even LIKE this kid, much less love her, I'll go in the kitchen and look in this drawer. Somehow it makes everything fall into place.
..... so one day I was trying to explain to Mike how much work a baby really is. He started comparing her to Dante, and I blurted out, "Yeah, but you can't kennel a baby!" He said that we can, we just have to be more creative. I think we've found our solution.
Dante's bed will be moved over to Mike's side of the bed for a few months. Now Mike will have to learn how to exit the bed without stepping on the dog while I advance to co-sleeper wrangling.
And this is my favorite picture of all. I found it this morning while I was putting away clean grownup laundry - Mike helped me with her laundry yesterday but couldn't figure out how to fold what I like to call her "Hugh Hefner" bathrobes. We plan to hang all of her clothes in her closet, but for the first few months, while she's co-sleeping, her clothes will go in a drawer in her changing table by our bed. I wasn't paying attention to where everything went and never knew what happened to the robes until just now.

This just melts my heart. Gives me the warm fuzzies like when I caught him with a starry, faraway gaze while holding the stuffed monkey that he picked out for her. I can't wait to give that man his little girl.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Martha Washingtons

This is one of my favorite Christmas candies, and unlike fudge and divinity, anybody can do it. You don't have to wait 'till it stops raining, and there's no mystic mumbo-jumbo of letting it set up and harden. Basically, it's just a chocolate-covered fondant, but oh, what a fondant it is.

When I was little, I didn't like these very much. They seemed really labor intensive, and the dark chocolate just wasn't my thing. But the other day I decided that nothing would do until I'd made a batch. I forgot that one recipe makes a TON of these babies. I made them twice as big as they're supposed to be and still ended up with over 125. But I turned on some Christmas music, started grooving on down, and had a great time making a mess in the kitchen.

The recipe from which I worked comes from More Saintly Servings from the First United Methodist Church in Canton, Mississippi, where Cha-Cha and Papa Doc were members. It's one of those old recipes from the 1950s with vague descriptions like "1 can Eagle Brand milk," "3 boxes confectioners' sugar," and "1 can coconut." I hate those recipes. Who knows how big cans of coconut were 50 years ago?!? Give me exact measurements, dammit!

So I'll leave it at this: these measurements are give and take, as long as your fondant center is a consistency so you can pick it up and roll it in a ball between your hands and it will hold its shape. Usually I do this with very clean bare hands, but the pregnancy hormones have made me such a hot mama that I had to wear latex gloves so as not to melt the mixture. I love latex gloves in the kitchen; they're just kind of a luxury, so I don't use them often.

2 Tablespoons vanilla
3-4 boxes (pounds) confectioners' sugar, to the correct consistency. I used about 4 pounds just to make the mixture stiff enough to roll.
2 sticks melted butter
1 14 ounce can Eagle brand condensed milk
1 can coconut (I just used about 10 ounces flake from a bag, but you can certainly add more to taste)
2 cups chopped nuts

12-24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, depending on whether or not you want to double-dip
1-2 ounces paraffin wax (you can usually find this in the canning or baking aisle)
Toothpicks. Lots and lots of toothpicks.
  • Mix fondant ingredients well and roll into balls.
  • Place balls on waxed paper and refrigerate as you go. Once you're done with the last tray, the first tray that you put into the fridge should be cold enough to hold their shape during dipping.
  • Using a double-boiler, melt chocolate and paraffin wax, mixing together well.
  • Stick a toothpick into each ball on the tray and use this as a handle to dip the chocolate.
  • Once you're done dipping all of the balls on that tray, remove the toothpicks. You can re-use them if you like - just keep a small glass nearby to catch them.
  • Using a teaspoon, scoop up a little chocolate and use that as a finishing topper to fill the toothpick holes. When I was young, Mom and I used to try to fill them up perfectly so all the balls were neat little spheres. But now that I'm older and more creative, I an reveling in letting the chocolate luxuriously drip down the sides. Then while it's still wet, you can add fun stuff, like nonpareils.
I feel like a Godiva chocolatier. What I wouldn't give for some edible gold leaf right about now.

When you're done, just keep them in the fridge until you're ready to consume. Mmmm. There's something about the crunch of the outer chocolate shell and the soft coconutty goodness inside that tells me Merry Christmas!

Mike asked me why they're called Martha Washingtons, and I had to tell him the same story that my mom told me: I have no idea.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Candy

Atmospheric conditions have been perfect to make divinity, and oh boy, have I been cooking up a storm. Three batches of divinity later, I figured it wouldn't hurt to do a few more batches of candy. Nesting instinct? Maybe. But really, I know this time next year I'll be chasing a little kid around, so I decided to make the most of a quiet kitchen while the peachick is as manageable as she'll ever be.

Also, I have somehow been volunteered to do desserts for all of the Christmas parties to which we've been invited this year, and what hostess wants to deal with plates, forks, knives, etc. involved when a pie or cake is brought? This way guests can definitely have their fill of sugary indulgence by using only their fingers!

So it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the kitchen with.....

Martha Washingtons
Traditional walnut divinity
Chocolate peppermint divinity, a brand-spanking new creation in the kitchen. I added 2 teaspoons peppermint extract instead of vanilla and 12 ounces mini chocolate chips instead of nuts.
Peanut clusters with and without pretzels
Pecan divinity and...
Martha Washingtons with sprinkles.
'cause life's just more fun with sprinkles.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How We Broke the News to Mom

These photos are oldies but goodies: I just found them in my little snapshooter camera that I keep in my purse. They're from back in August, when we found out that the Peachick was a girl. Our ultrasound appointment was mid-morning, and everybody had been calling, texting, emailing, even sending smoke signals to find out the sex of our baby as soon as we found out.

In a fit of hormonal rage, I told my mom that we would tell her as soon as she took us to CHAR for lunch. This mama needed red meat. But I also wanted Mike to be the one to tell everybody our big news. What to do, what to do....

Dr. K's office is close to Gigi's Cupcakes, so we dropped by after our appointment and picked up a few pink ones. I made Mike carry the box in to lunch with us. Mom was waiting for us at a table, bouncing up and down in her seat with excitement. She never noticed the cupcake box in Mike's hands.
We just weren't cruel enough to make her wait all through lunch to dessert for the big reveal, but I did have the presence of mind to whip out my camera as Mike was reaching for the box:
"Are you having a girl?"
She was thrilled.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I was initially disappointed when I found out she is a she. Because I don't have any problem at all with having Mike's baby, but I know MY baby will be a pain in the butt to raise. But I'm coming around: maybe she'll be a tough little girl with Mike's laid back and easygoing personality. That would be a good combination.

In other news, I'm realizing that all of my posts are quickly becoming labeled "Baby." I didn't really want to be that person, you know, the one who only talks baby stuff all the time. But I guess our lives are pretty boring in all other areas: Peachick is currently our only excitement or interesting thing going on. I hope I'm not bothering y'all with all this baby talk.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rainy Day

Ah, my lovely readers, thank you for your patience. It's been a wild and woolly November, and I'm sorry for the breaks in posts. Today's weather is too dreary to take Dante for a W-A-L-K (I have to spell it lest he know what I'm saying and freak), so as we wait for the bands of rain to move on, I'll fill you in on this month.

We both had birthdays in November, so many, many photos were taken. At the beginning of this month, Mike, Dante and I took a drive down the Trace for some sightseeing and a few photos. We came upon Owen's Creek, a natural rock formation that was really surprising in its loveliness and contours. After a walk through the woods, we stopped at a few other attractions along the way to have some lunch at my favorite chicken place in Lorman.
Then the next week, we met our good friend Joy McClellan for some sweet photos of us and the Peachick. I think they turned out really well and must must MUST let Joy know our selection for prints, if I can EVER pick out which ones we like the best!

Mike took me to my buddy Craig's Parlor Market for my birthday, and damn. It was fine. If you live in the area and haven't been yet, you are totally missing out. The prohibition drink menu in itself is worth a trip. Since the Peachick has crowded my stomach considerably, I had the foie gras small plate and absolutely savored every bite. The flavors on every dish were nothing short of phenomenal. Well done, Craig. Very well done. After that, Mike took me to Mom's house where they surprised me with a chocolate ganache cake from my favorite bakery, That Special Touch. It sure was a special touch.

Probably the most fun we had all month was thanks to my good friend Leslie, who graciously invited us to the Slobovia Outernational Pumpkin Drop. Mike had heard of it before, but I'd never imagined this grassy airstrip and the motley crew of planes, anything from a P-51 to experimentals, could come together for such entertainment: they made up a target with old airplane parts and, one by one, bombed it with pumpkins leftover from Halloween! It was a hoot and a half.

Because of Mike's work schedule, I was never able to take him out on a date for his birthday, which made me very sad. Maybe I can do it this weekend, once we eat all the leftovers from Thanksgiving. I'm ready for a big slab of good red meat.

The rest of the month was a whirlwind of family visits, showers, holiday parties, good friends, and lots of mayhem and foolishness. We are humbled and awed at how sweetly family, friends, and strangers are celebrating and welcoming the Peachick and are looking forward to her arrival now more than ever.
Asher made these cupcakes. Chocolate raspberry habanero with white chocolate raspberry frosting and pistachio with white chocolate buttercream. Deelish!
Peachick's initials were on the petit fours and napkins, and I have to admit that seeing them made me tear up a little. It made her more real, more of a person, even though Mike is still reserving the right to change her name once we meet her if necessary.
And how IS our little peachick? She's just kicking along. At 33 weeks, she's measuring right on track at about 4 pounds and 19 inches even though the general consensus is, "My gosh, you're so TINY!" People honestly do not believe that I'm as pregnant as I really am. Yes, at 8 months I'm still wearing some of my non-maternity clothes, which freaks me out a little. But Dr. K says everything is fine and that I just have the bone and body structure to carry an extra few pounds of baby. I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but if the kid's OK, then I'm happy. I was 9 pounds even at birth, and Mike was 6 pounds 12 ounces, so Dr. K is estimating that she'll be somewhere between those two figures. I'm hoping she takes after her daddy. She seems strong like me but mellow and easygoing like him. I can't help but think that combination will make for a good birth.

9 PM is her witching hour, when she's the most active, and you can almost set your watch by my belly dancing. I feel great, but Dr. K has suggested I take it down from walking 5 K a day to only 1-2 miles. I still cheat a little every now and then, if only to see what's going on in the hood. My mom has been kind enough to send her maids to the house so I'm not doing heavy housework any more, and after an unfortunate episode with cleaning out the bathtub, I'm very appreciative. I'm going to see Dr. K every other week until December 17th, when I start going once a week. My, how time flies. The nursery is set up, but I'm waiting for Mike to have a little time to hang pictures on the wall before I post pictures on the blog.

He's pretty stoked about his girls.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hic.... Hic... Hic.....

The other day while reading in bed just before turning out the light, I felt a change in the Peachick's movement. She was awfully still, then would twitch. Still then twitch. Still... Twitch. Still.....

"Mike, your baby girl has the hiccups."

"How do you know?"

"Our child wouldn't have that kind of rhythm. It must be involuntary."

Remedy photo courtesy of Life123.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty.....

One of the more disconcerting things to me about pregnancy is how much time I spend in front of a camera lately. All my life, I've shied away from the lens, being much more comfortable behind the apparatus than in front of it. But now that this belly's the rising star of our new family, I've somehow learned to grin and bear it, so to speak, inwardly cringing a little as we look through the belly shots and trying my best to believe Mike when he tells me I'm the most beautiful woman he knows.

But after our shoot with Joy McClellan, I believe it.

We had such a good time with Joy during our shoot. My favorite part was when she sat us on that bench and said, "Just be Fran and Mike!" That set the tone for the afternoon, and we spent the next hour just being Fran and Mike, goofily in love with life and each other.
Even though I was 29 weeks pregnant during the shoot, my black sweater would sometimes hide the belly. Joy would say, "I can't see the baby!" cueing me to turn to the side and poke the Peachick out as far as I could.
These aren't just posed shots from a stuffy studio: they're really memories of a fun afternoon filled with laughter and good times with my husband and a good friend. The photos and the people are treasures to me, and I'm so blessed and glad to have them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Would You Do if You Weren't Afraid?

I was in a plane crash when I was six years old.

It was Christmas Eve, and we were flying home in a twin engine Beechcraft Baron. In a one-in-a-billion freak accident, the landing gear malfunctioned and retracted just before we touched down. I remember the bone-clattering jolt, the sickening lurch as the plane listed to the left, the horrific screech of steel on steel and steel on concrete, the sparks of the prop as it hit the runway, the shattered glass, the heat and acrid smoke of the port engine as it exploded, and the unexpected smell of wet dirt as we plowed into an arc off the runway. We took out two runway lights. I clutched my teddy bear, and when it was over, I sat frozen and just wanted to be still for a minute, but my parents literally threw me out onto the cold tarmac to escape the hot flames.

None of us had a scratch. If not for my dad's skill and experience and the fact that I was in the copilot seat of the cockpit, the plane would have cartwheeled. I wouldn't be sitting here, typing on this blog.

It makes sense that anyone who had been through that would develop a lifelong paralyzing fear of flight, but I didn't. Flying is still a thrill to me: there's nothing more exhilarating than a takeoff or more fortunate than a good landing. I even married a pilot. You're probably thinking, what, is she crazy? Why wasn't I clasped in the grasp of fear?


I solidly realized that God's Will really is done every day. For some reason we decided that I would sit in the front for the trip, which was very unusual as I couldn't even see over the dashboard. He guided Dad's hands and took care of us. He could take me out in a one-in-a-billion freak heart attack right now as I sit typing just as easily as He could have my whole family that Christmas Eve, but it wasn't our time. Nothing else can explain it.

That knowledge has enriched my life in ways you'll never know and led me to do crazy things you wouldn't believe, and I'm so thankful for that.

Auntie Mame said, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death," and that line has landed me in more hot water than I'd like to admit. But it sure has been a fun road. And now I'm thrilled to be doing this:

There's so much fear surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Thank you to my friends who have chosen not to impart on me their horror stories. But through it all, I've felt physically solid, calm, and happy and, as a result, hale and hearty. Again, the only explanation that I have is faith. I fully expect the Peachick to make an ordinary, run-of-the-mill landing into this world, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that if a one-in-a-billion freak accident should occur, God will be there and will take care of us in His own way through our incredible medical team's skill and other factors about which we might never know.

What would YOU do if you weren't afraid?

Baron photo courtesy of Raytheon, poster photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

The only drawback of pumpkin spice muffins is that they don't use a whole can of pureed pumpkin. A standard can is 15 ounces, and 3/4 cup is (if my math is correct) only 6 ounces. Sure, I dump in more pumpkin to make it more of a full cup, but that still leaves 7 ounces of pumpkin hanging out in the kitchen.

Then I decided to bake another batch for a friend, so I had the better part of a whole can of pumpkin hanging out. Hmm. What to do, what to do. Mike had the solution:

"Why don't you put it in ice cream?"

Did I mention this man is brilliant?

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8-12 ounces canned pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon, or to taste, ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon, or to taste, ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon, or to taste, ground allspice
1 teaspoon, or to taste ground cinnamon
2 cups whipping cream

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, pumpkin, and spices until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the whipping cream and whisk for another 30 seconds or so. Whisk it just long enough to incorporate some air into the whipping cream but not long enough to actually whip it.
Slowly pour into an ice cream maker and churn for 20-25 minutes, or until it reaches desired consistency.

Goes well with chocolate syrup.

And it tastes just like chiffon pumpkin pie.

Photo courtesy of Eliza.

How Many College Degrees Does it Take.....

To put together a jogging stroller?

Actually, it wasn't that bad, but I'm certainly glad to have a nuclear mechanical engineer around to figure out this stuff.

Dante was excited and really wanted to help.
I figured I'd be more help sitting at attention and being a gofer. The flashlight really helped Mike find the screw holes.
All done! Just hooking up the MP3 speakers. Fancy pants, Mr. Peacock.
Kearney was completely unimpressed. He kept giving the stroller the hairy eyeball. Then he parked himself directly in front of one of the back tires.
So naturally Mike decided to threaten his life with it. Of course. Kearney was so not amused.
Insert snarky caption here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Naked Ladies

The garden has been a complete disaster this year. Tragedy and travesty.

In May we had a couple of trees taken out of the back yard for more sunlight, and the crew smashed and took out more than half of my tomato plants. Then when we left town for a couple of weeks back in June, I forgot to set the sprinkler system. The excessive heat left most of my plants looking literally as if they had been set on fire upon our return. I was able to salvage some of the herbs, tomatoes, and peppers, but the damage had been done. We weren't the only ones with the problem: friends and family called us in search of some good home-grown backyard tomatoes. That made me feel somewhat better.

Then in August I took out a flood insurance policy on our house, thereby jinxing us into not receiving a single drop of rain ever since.

Weather forecasts clearly show that it will Never. Rain. Again.


Reminds me of a silly song we used to sing as kids:

Oh, it ain't gonna rain no more no more,
Ain't gonna rain no more,
How in the heck can I wash my neck,
When it ain't gonna rain no more?

Once I had an old gray dog,
I wish I had 'im back,
He chased the big pigs over the fence,
And the little ones through the crack!

I found something similar to it on YouTube; the words aren't quite right, but you get the gist of it.

No matter how much water we poured into the yard, the heat and weather factors just would not cooperate. Now I understand Grandpapa's frustration during his farming days. It makes much more sense to me why he wanted a weather/crop report from me when we'd travel through the Delta to visit when I was younger.

So you can imagine my utter shock when I saw this outside the window the other morning!

Mom and Cindy dug up these spider lilies, or lyroris radiata, from Cha-Cha and Papa Doc's house up in Canton years ago. I planted them in the first few months after we moved into this house, but they never came up. I eventually gave up hope and forgot about them.
These were Cha-Cha's favorite flowers. She called them naked ladies because they have no foliage; just a slender green stalk with an exquisite red Amaryllidaceae on top. You should have heard my phone call to Mom, "There are NAKED LADIES in my back yard!" Without missing a beat, she responded, "They're in my yard too!"

If Big Brother was listening to our conversation, I'm sure he's investigating via satellite right now.
But why did they decide to come up this year, of all times? Nothing but dirt is currently growing in the yard. Even our evergreens are browning up. But we have naked ladies all over the place, throwing caution to the wind and stubbornly visiting us, making the yard look not so forlorn and crispy.
The only thing I can figure is that Cha-Cha is pleased about the Peachick in my belly and letting us know it in her own way. I hope they come up every year forever.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Muffins

Well, even though there's no frost on the pumpkin just yet, I decided the cooler weather warranted a hot breakfast. And what better accompaniment to eggs and sausage than pumpkiny muffins to warm us? And even though these would be fine without the semi-sweet addition, is there anything that goes better with a pumpkin muffin than chocolate chips?

I think not.

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pan or use paper liners.
  2. Mix sugar, oil, eggs. Add pumpkin and water. In separate bowl mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.. Add wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Donna at AllRecipes.


Made by Lena