Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Samson!

Saturday was Samson’s 8th birthday. We spoiled our baby boy rotten by taking him in the car with us to run Saturday errands. 
Then he got to go on a big dog hike with Bailey and Angus all the way up Scolty Hill. 

His mountain climbing skills are seriously impressive. He made it up and down with plenty of energy to spare. 
We didn’t bake a special cake, but he got plenty of Ritz crackers (his favorite) and he even got to lick the almost empty peanut butter jar clean. 

Then to cap it all off, he got to sleep in the bed with us. The little dragon snored all night long from the comfort of his momma’s pillow.  
In honor of the birthday boy, I’d like to say a few words on his behalf. We ‘rescued’ Samson from Cavalier Rescue USA nearly 4 years ago, and we fell head over heels for this snuggle bug when he climbed right into my lap and slept for the entire 5 hour car ride back to Midland. 

We decided to get a second dog for Bailey’s sake, thinking she’d benefit from having a playmate. 
Bailey and Sam meeting for the first time.
We found out quickly that Bailey and Sam didn’t have much in common, and though they seldom ‘play’, they do peacefully co-exist and occasionally enjoy a nap together (their one common hobby).  

Samson is the sweetest, most gentle, friendliest, most fearless dog I have ever known. And he’s seriously cute. 
Sometimes I wish I could just scoop him up and eat him like ice cream. His nickname these days is ‘Snickers’ because he is so deliciously adorable. 
He follows me everywhere. He likes to sit in the bay window and watch the neighborhood all day long, letting me know with a friendly yelp if someone’s out walking a dog or if the mailman’s making his way up the driveway. 
He loves walks through the forest and bath time afterward. 
He’s a certified therapy dog, and when he passed his exam, the examiner told me that he had the ‘perfect’ personality for cheering people up. It's true. Even on my hardest days, he fills my heart with joy. 

He’s helped to keep my baby fever at bay for the past 4 years by letting me tote him around as if he were an infant. I’m excited to see him transition from baby of the family to gentle, affectionate, and patient big brother.

I love you Sammy and pray that we get to enjoy several more amazing birthdays in the future. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bump Day: 14 Weeks!

Today is the REAL official start of my 2nd trimester. I’m still waiting for that pregnancy sweet spot to hit, but as of now I’m still feeling exhausted.  However, I can handle the fatigue as long as the constant nausea continues to stay at bay. I don’t mind napping throughout the day and having TV marathons on the couch with my pups as long as I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hurl at any moment.  

I think that seeing evidence of the pregnancy by way of a bump definitely helps to put things in perspective. Around 8 weeks, I was sick as a dog and without having had an ultrasound yet, it was really hard to push through the misery and see the end game.  All I could think about was how yucky I felt. Jonathan wanted to talk about baby names and babymoons and all I wanted to do was press a cold rag to my head. 

Now that I’m out of the morning sickness coma, we’ve been making a little bit of progress on both baby names and babymoon plans, though we still haven’t come to a final decision on either. 

If anyone has experience traveling in Europe and has a stellar idea for where we could take our last vacation before baby, please give me your ideas! We want something sunny, beachy, relaxing, and not overly touristy. Right now we’re focusing most of our research on Portugal and Spain, but we’ve got Turkey, Greece, and France on our list as well.
Majorca, Spain? (source)
Portugal? (source)

Any thoughts? 

So now that I’ve sufficiently gone off on a tangent, let’s get to the bump pics. Here are the 14 week shots.  *disclaimer* I did just eat a bowl of easy Mac right before these were taken, so that might have some influence the size of the bump. 

And now that the baby is starting to make an appearance, and my Easy Mac binges are becoming more frequent, it was time to invest in some stretch mark prevention. My skin has always been super dry but combine that with pregnancy and a harsh Scottish winter, and I’m downright scaly. 

My normal routine wasn’t any match for the reptilian skin taking over my body, especially my lower back area.  While applying some cocoa butter lotion for the 20th time last Friday, I looked in the mirror and noticed a stretch mark. I may have over-reacted a bit, because I immediately went on Amazon and bought every top rated stretch mark remedy they had. 

So far, I’ve had a new package arrive every day this week. Still, I’m applying all 6 formulas religiously and I have to say that my skin is feeling a more moisturized. So far, my favorite is the cheapest, the Vaseline cocoa butter gel but the Vitamin E Oil also does the trick. 

Any moms out there have other stretch mark secrets? I’m pretty sure it all comes down to genetics, but it doesn’t hurt to keep my skin hydrated.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let the Brainwashing Begin...

Most of you know that I am a hardcore LSU Tiger fan. I was trained early on to bleed purple and gold and some of my earliest memories are of visiting Mike the Tiger on campus and attending LSU sporting events. 

My passion for my home state’s largest University was only fueled by my sister’s attendance and membership on the LSU Tennis Team. I spent quite a lot of time on campus watching her matches, and relished in the times when she invited me to spend the weekend with her in her dorm. 

LSU fandom is an integral part of the culture in South Louisiana. Unlike Texas, Florida, and other southern states, we don’t have big in-state rivalries. You don’t see houses on the same street with Auburn and Bama flags. Nope, the love for LSU is generally universal (except for a few ULL fans who can’t get over it…). 

When you go for a run in Baton Rouge on gameday morning, everyone you pass will greet you with a cheerful ‘Geaux Tigers!’. The dogs have purple and gold collars on and the babies are wearing teeny tiny jerseys or cheerleading outfits.  Growing up, my poodle would often have purple and gold bows in his hair. As a baby, I was often dressed in LSU garb. 
Our dogs own plenty of LSU paraphernalia. 
Puppy Bailey in her LSU sweater.
Our baby will be no different.  In fact, the brainwashing has begun in utero.  My mom was the first one to find out I was pregnant. A trip to Target ensued to purchase the baby’s first LSU onsie and booties, which I later used as a vehicle to announce the pregnancy to Jonathan. 
Happy Valentine's Day!

As soon as we told Jonathan’s parents, a care package was in the mail with LSU baby books to further ensure that this baby knows that it’s part of Tiger Nation.   
My brother suggests that every day I should hold speakers up to my belly playing the LSU fight song. My nephews knew every word of this anthem when they were two years old, and the plan is for our baby to learn it just as quickly. 
2 year old Corbin, cheering on the Tigers.
It’s parallel in importance to learning the ABCs. I’m not joking.  

Living so far away, we almost have to be even more intentional about passing our LSU obsession down to our kids. They won’t be able to absorb it simply by soaking in the atmosphere at an LSU tailgate or chomping down a hot dog at Alex Box Stadium. It’s solely up to us to show them what being a Tiger is all about and as a family we take this responsibility very seriously. 

It’s not just about sports. It’s about family history, tradition, community, and camaraderie. When our baby is born, across the Atlantic in a foreign country, he or she will still automatically be accepted into the LSU family. 

As an expat parent-to-be, this is just a piece of a bigger puzzle of how to teach our kid what it is to be an American as long as we're living outside the borders. Like I said, we have to be more intentional about keeping what we love about our culture in tact within our household. Jon and I cannot define ourselves in terms of culture without mentioning LSU.  

No matter where we travel, we'll always be Americans. But more specifically, we'll be Southerners. Louisianians. Tigers.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The First Trimester Strikes Back

I’m apparently the least educated pregnant lady on the planet. I’ve been walking around thinking I’m in my second trimester for a whole week, but turns out that I won’t turn that corner until next Wednesday. And the first trimester is letting me know that I’m not quite through with her yet.

Now, I don’t know if it’s my hypochondriac tendencies and it’s all psychological, but suddenly, I’m not feeling so well anymore. I had a brief upswing in energy during week 12, but so far week 13 is the pits. Today was the first day that I’ve had classic morning sickness. Not perpetual nausea and generally feeling queasy, but actual hugging the toilet morning sickness.

Luckily, Jillian had the great idea to get our pups together for a hike and the fresh air really calmed my tummy. We enjoyed some good exercise and beautiful Scottish Sunshine.
It was even warm enough to leave the gloves behind. Oh the little things…

The walk was great for Bailey as well, who had a blast running wild through the forest with her best buddy Angus, especially when it came to trudging through swampy ponds.

At one point she was literally covered from head to toe with mud, which to her is a sign of a successful outing.
Now that she’s been properly hosed down and shampooed, I’ve decided to properly enjoy the last week of my first trimester. This could potentially be one of the last stretches of time where I can relish in a sick day. I can keep my jammies on, watch TV  all day, order pizza, and just wallow in my fatigue and queasiness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 5 seasons of Amazing Race to watch…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bump Day: 13 weeks

Hey friends! Today marks the start of my 13th week of pregnancy. Most people think 13 is an unlucky number, but not this girl. As someone who identifies herself as having rotten luck, I’ve sort of adopted it as a suitable insignia. I even went so far as to voluntarily choose it as my soccer number in college. And now it’s fitting that our wee baby will be born in 2013.  

Further proof that 13 is a good number:  this is the first week that I’ve had a consistently visible baby bump. So from now on (well until around October 23rd, Lord Willing), Wednesday will be known on the blog as ‘Bump Day’ (cute word play blatantly stolen from my friend Pam). Last week we had our 12 week ultrasound and were given 5 photos of the jellybean from various angles. Here is an inside peek: 

Kinda looks like Jonathan, dontcha think?
And here is an outside peek:

 PS. How badly do I need a tan? Yikes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Weekly Pinterest Project: Pulled Pork Sammiches

Last week I was struck with a craving for messy, juicy, bar-b-quey, pulled pork sandwiches. I’d heard a rumor that these could easily be made with a jar of BBQ sauce and a slow cooker, so I set out to find a simple recipe on Pinterest. My searchings for ‘easy pulled pork crock pot recipes’ all yielded results requiring me to make my BBQ sauce from scratch. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

Then I found this pin, which had basic directions, but wasn’t actually linked to a more detailed recipe. 
The general instructions were included in the caption beneath. This was the recipe I had to work with: "EASIEST BBQ PULLED PORK-pour your favorite bbq sauce in the bottom of crock pot, add a little onion (opt), rub seasoning salt on our pork loin and place it in crock pot. I added a little water. Pour a little bbq sauce on top of loin and cook on low 6-8 hrs. Remove meat and place in lg. bowl, use 2 forks to shred and then place it back in crock pot and add more bbq sauce. Cook another 15-30 min. Absolutely the easiest way to make pulled pork! "

I was a tad nervous to try to new dish with such round-about, non-specific instructions, but was tempted by the simplicity

This was my first time ever cooking a pork dish, so I was a little lost on the meat aisle. Jonathan had requested Pork Loin since it’s the least fatty cut, but the closest I could find was Pork Loin Joint. 
It had quite a load of fat on the surface, which was in direct contradiction to my sweet hubby’s request, so I spent a solid 30 minutes trimming the fatty parts off of the loin. Now, my food aversions have improved greatly over the past week, but I’m still not in a place where I enjoy being intimately involved with a piece of raw meat. 

Once I managed to substantially de-fat the pork loin, I poured about half a bottle of BBQ sauce into the bottom of the crock pot and added ¼ cup of onions. I then rubbed the pork down with salt, pepper, and Tony’s (also not a pleasant prego experience) before placing it into the slow cooker. I added another ½ cup of BBQ sauce on top of the pork loin, and also added about ¼ cup of water. 
Then I let it cook covered on low for 5 hours and high for 1 hour. It could easily cook on low for 7-8 hours if you need to leave it all day. After about 6 hours of cooking, I separated the pork and shredded it before placing it back into the pot and stirring it into the sauce, making sure each morsel was coated with heavenly goodness. 

I let it marinate on low for another 30 minutes before diving in. I like my pulled pork on a hamburger bun with cheese and mustard, which is just how Jonathan likes his as well. 
It was another Jonathan approved recipe, one which he even ate a third helping of. I was especially pleased that he mentioned how lean the meat was, assuring me that my highly uncomfortable 30 minute raw meat session was not in vain.   
And even though I got the smallest loin cut I could find, there was still plenty left over…well until Jonathan tripped over Samson and accidently dropped the leftovers, at which point last night's dinner quickly became dog food. Samson and Bailey were also big fans of the pulled pork experiment. Sam ended up with quite a bit of it on his back, which Bailey was courteous enough to lick clean for him. Having two dogs finally paid off! 

Now, pre-pregnancy, I was not a big fan of pork (hence me being a pork cooking virgin before this), but with my recent disgust with poultry, I’ve had to substitute with the other white meat. Now that my aversion to chicken has been significantly reduced, I think I’ll try a similar version of this recipe with chicken breasts. I found an actual recipe here, though it calls for the making of your own BBQ sauce as well. Don't these people know that you can buy this stuff ready-made??? (You can take the girl out of America, but you can't take the America out of the girl....)

Now I realize that most of my pinterest projects lately have been recipes, but I’m ready to get my craft on. We decided on a theme for the nursery and I’d love to make some homemade things to decorate the room with. The theme is the sky and we hope to fill it with clouds, hot air balloons, stars, and sunshine. For instance, how adorable is this cloud mobile
(Original Source)
If that's not worth having a baby for, I don't know what is.

I could either spend a whole lot of money on etsy or I could use my position as ex-pat housewife to make some of these items myself. If you see any crafting projects along these lines, please let me know. And if you wanna come over and join me for a cuppa and some crafting, you’re welcome to join!