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So, 13 Weeks Came and Went...

I'm already a terrible parent. I had every intention of taking my pictures weekly from here on out, but then last week got in the way.

For the first part of the week, we had our ancient air handler replaced. The thing was a behemoth from the dark ages (or, 1987...pretty much the same thing when it comes to appliances). It had mold and nasty junk on it, so Tadpole and I decamped to my parents' house, lest I breathe in any of the grossness. My parents had busy weeks last week, too, so more often than not, no one was home during daylight hours to take my picture.

Then, Landon went hunting the later part of the week, so I continued to stay with my parents. I'll freely admit it: I'm a weeny when it comes to staying by myself. I'm totally convinced the Mothman or some ghosts are going to come get me at night. Still no picture.

I was SO busy this weekend working on my Christmas shopping that the picture didn't even cross my mind until Tuesday, by which time I had entered my 14th week.

Luckily though, I haven't changed much at all. I'm still rocking the super tiny baby bump, which you'll see in my 14 week pictures (hopefully, coming in a day or two!!).

Mountain Weekend 2012

During the lost months of 2012 (also known as "the time when I was too tired to do much of anything productive"), I went to the mountains with my parents, sister and Landon. We've made the trip for the last three years, and it's become something to which we all look forward. I figured that, even though I'm two months late, the trip's still worth sharing.

A peek at one of our past trips (2010--I never uploaded the ones from 2011)

The first year we rented a cabin near Saluda, North Carolina, but it was deemed too "rustic" by my dad, and it also wasn't big enough for all of us to relax. Last year, we rented a different cabin that was halfway between Saluda and Hendersonville. It was more than a little off the beaten path, but it was spacious and the view was absolutely stunning. Can you guess which one we returned to this year? 

The week we went, October 15-19, was the first week that morning sickness really hit me. Woe was me on some of those winding mountain roads, as I clung to the armrest and prayed that I wouldn't barf all over my dad's new interior. 

Still, I was a trooper, and my perseverance was worth it, since we had a great time. You can tell I wasn't feeling top notch, though, by the general lack of pictures. 

One day, we went into Hendersonville, North Carolina to shop and have a snack. 
Downtown Hendersonville. I love the sidewalk cafes!

We stopped for a snack at McFarlan's Bakery. The no-sweets aversion that I'm currently experiencing hadn't hit full swing yet, so I happily indulged in a chocolate cookie!
Amber and her black and white cookie
Landon attempts to eat the world's largest cream puff. It was deemed impossible to eat without getting cream on your nose!

On another of our outings, we went to the SkyTop Orchard, where we picked out all sorts of yummy apples. If you've never tried a Pink Lady apple, your life is incomplete. Locate one immediately, and thank me later. 

The house we rented is on the very top of a mountain. While this location makes for some interesting (ahem) driving to get to (read: a near vertical driveway that makes you feel like you're on a roller coaster...only without any restraints, and no promise to get you to the station safely), the views are gorgeous. On a clear day, you can see all the way to South Carolina!

Then, on the worst day of morning sickness, we visited Lake Lure and Chimney Rock. I was absolutely NOT feeling the hike up to the top of the mountain, but my dad and Landon walked with me  every step of the way. It took twice as long as my mom and sister, but I made it!

I'm hoping that we'll get to go next year, too. It might be Tadpole's first road trip!

12 Weeks

I had my first maternity photo shoot last night (i.e. Landon nicely acquiesced to my result during his late lunch break and snapped a few pics in our backyard). I don't know why, but these made me feel so weird.

Maybe it's because I look pudgy in them. Though, as Landon keeps reminding me, it's not pudge--it's Tadpole!

Maybe because the pregnancy is starting to feel real now that I'm beginning to show. I mean, I guess I could have had a really long bout of the stomach flu this whole time, right?!

Either way, I'm excited to finally be at this stage in my pregnancy...even if it means feeling totally awkward during my weekly pictures. I've still got many, many weeks left to perfect them, though.

No, I didn't eat too many pieces of pizza. That's the world's scrawniest baby bump!
Isn't the shirt adorable? My co-worker Brittany made it for me as my birthday present. About a week before my birthday, I'd admired a shirt just like that on Pinterest, but hadn't mentioned it to Brittany. A week later, guess what shows up in my birthday bag? Great minds must think alike!

And then Landon got super fancy and artsy and wanted me to stand on the tree next to the marsh. 

And now, to steal an idea from Becky over at Welcome to the Good Life

A weekly Q and A!
How far along? 12 weeks and 4 days
Total weight gain:  0-1 pound, depending on when I weigh myself. My mom and sister are betting on how much I will gain, which makes me wonder what they think of my eating habits!
Maternity clothes: Most of my regular sized pants are super snug and uncomfortable. I can wear my stretchy jeggings (like in the pics above) with no problem, as well as anything with a jersey waistband. I did buy a pair of maternity jeans that I've worn twice--they are a little big right now, but they are so comfortable! My mom and I went shopping for several tops this past weekend, but I haven't worn any of our purchases yet. 
Sleep: I could sleep all the time right now. I'm totally in bed by 9:20 every night or I am a grumpy, grumpy person the next day. 
Best moment this week: Telling my students at school. They were so excited! One of the little girls kept saying, "Ms. Natalie is going to get a baby!" like I would pick it out at Walmart when it was time. After I explained that I already had the baby, but it was getting stronger inside me, she kept patting my stomach and calling me "Ms. Mommy Vereen-Davis" the rest of the day. I was so happy that they were happy for me!
Miss anything? Sweet tea, Diet Cokes and caramel Frappachinos. Yum yum yum. 
Movement:  Nothing yet. I'm really excited to finally feel the baby!
Food cravings:  Anything salty or savory. I've particularly been in love with Chik-fil-A's Chicken Caesar Cool Wraps. I could eat them three times a day. Pizza, pasta, and anything buffalo chicken has also been a big draw lately. 
Anything making you queasy or sick?  I'm hopefully over most of the queasiness, but I still don't like looking at or smelling raw meat. I still have a complete and utter aversion to all things sweet, though. 
Gender:  No clue. We're finding out at the end of January!
Labor signs:   Thank heavens, no.
Symptoms: Sleepiness, random bouts of crying, food cravings. 
Belly button in or out?  Still looks exactly the same--in!
Wedding rings on or off?  On. I told Landon he was going to have to buy me a sparkly replacement when that time comes. I'm not holding my breath.
Happy or moody most of the time:  Mostly happy. My students haven't even gotten to me yet, which I definitely would have thought would have happened by now. 
Looking forward to: Finally having a real baby bump, rather than the pizza/ beer gut it looks like I'm currently rocking.

Edisto Island

In our back-to-back beach vacations, Landon and I left Kiawah (and my family) and headed over to Edisto (and the Davis family!). The Davises go to Edisto pretty regularly, but because of crazy schedules, they hadn't had a family beach week since summer 2009...when Landon and I weren't even married yet!

Our week at Edisto consisted primarily of this:
edisto island

because that's what you do on a beach vacation, right?!?

We stayed at a cute house on Chancellor Street (maybe fifth or sixth row). The walk to and from the beach was really short, and sometimes my awesome brother- and sister-in-law would shuttle me using their golf cart!
chancellor street edisto island
I loved all of the palm trees!
chancellor street edisto island
The Davis home away from home for the week
On the Thursday of Beach Week, I was tired of getting burnt (and in the oddest patterns! I may be the world's WORST sunscreen applier!) and of sitting on the beach reading (I started reading Stephen King's "It," but gave up on the book after I'd plowed through 826 pages and I realized I still had 400 more to go. I like reading A LOT, but seriously, where was his editor on that book!??!). 

I wanted to do something else...which is asking a lot on a little place like Edisto. It's meant to be rustic and out-of-the-way, so my options were limited. I'd heard about a protected nature site just off of Edisto Beach called Botany Bay. I'd just read about the history of the two former plantations that make up the site in my new Edisto Island history book that I purchased (no one took me up on my offer to do a series of history lectures at the beach...I wonder why...), so I was game to see what was there.
All went well for the first portion of the Botany Bay adventure. We saw ruins from the plantation houses, including this gorgeous ice house.
edisto island botany bay
I thought it was a church at first because, really, who's ever seen an ice house that big?
But then my clue that we were into some serious nature appeared in Landon's hand: he'd found a snakeskin just beside the ice house.
EW. EW. EW. I am not a nature kind of gal, ESPECIALLY any nature that has to do with snakes.

Landon assured me the snakeskin was very old and that the previous owner of said skin was likely a mile or more away from us. So we continued on the driving portion of the tour. The trees and marsh on the property were breathtaking:

We saw some birds and old trees--my kind of nature. At the very end of the tour, I told Landon that I wanted to go take pictures out on the beach, which I'd heard was gorgeous. I patted myself on the back for being so brave in all this nature-y stuff and we hiked the half-mile out to the Botany Bay Beach.
botany bay beach edisto island

I was having a great time, snapping pictures of this completely undeveloped and gorgeous beach while Landon checked out the hundreds of shells all over the beach.

There were loggerhead turtle nests all over the beach, and I thought it would be neat to take a picture of one of the cages (I love turtles and think that it's AWESOME that the people of Edisto are doing so much to protect the weensy baby turtles):

when I hear Landon call (very calmly) over my shoulder, "Hey, Natalie, I think maybe you should move."

"What?" I yelled back, confused.

"I just think you should move," he repeated.

And that's when I saw IT (not the Stephen King book this time)---I shutter to even THINK ABOUT THIS--there was a snake on the same tiny patch of reeds that I was currently clambering all over. I almost stepped on a snake, y'all!!!!!

I have never had a panic attack before, but I'm pretty sure that's what then ensued for the next fifteen minutes or so: ugly crying, feelings of nausea, the inability to breathe normally. It was AWFUL. When I say I don't like snakes, I mean it with every fiber of my being. Blech.

Somehow, Landon convinced me (from 25+ feet away) to take the following pictures. My hands were shaking so much that I don't know how they even turned out. (Warning: avert your eyes if you feel the same way about reptiles as I do.)
Yes, that is Landon playing with the snake.

Then, to make matters worse, Landon took the camera and got close ups of this nasty thing so we can remember it forever (please no). I was still sobbing over by the ocean, wondering if sea snakes were coming out of it, too.

I thought beaches were safe from snakes. Is nowhere sacred anymore?!

So, that's the start of our Edisto Vacay 2012 and the story of How I Almost Hyperventilated and Died.

More tomorrow on part two of Edisto Vacay 2012 (and I promise, no more snake stories!).

King of the Swamp

Landon loves being outdoors: hunting, fishing, kayaking, random nature walks. You name it--he's all for it. He's been an avid hunter since he was just a little thing, long before I knew him, but he's usually hunted what I consider to be normal animals, mostly deer and turkeys. 

However, his love of nature and hunting took on an entirely new twist when two events happened: the show Swamp People came on, and South Carolina began offering entries to a lottery for alligator tags. 

And yes, Landon has entered the lottery for the last three years that South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources has offered the alligator tags. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you're considering my poor heart that would have to deal with my husband out hunting something that could bit back), Landon hasn't won tags in the last two lotteries. We haven't found out about this year, but he's still gung ho on all things gator-related. 

So, that's why he had an alligator/ Swamp People themed 28th birthday party this past week!

My parents and sister decorated my parents' house to look like something out of the swamp, complete with camo table covering, an alligator pinata and green plates. 

And what is a swamp without a plastic snake or two? Of course, Landon had to wiggle the snake in front of the camera. Ew. (I don't care if it is plastic. It still looks like a snake!)

Amber and I spent one hot and sweaty afternoon on the porch painting Swamp People t-shirts. Landon's shirt read "King of the Swamp." (He wishes!) We also had "Cajun Princess" (Amber's, of course), "Choot 'Em!" (mine, complete with tiny painted rifle and alligator), "Dat's a Tree Shakah, Baby" (Mama's), and "got gator?" (Daddy's). It was really simple to do: we just bought a pack of swampy colored pocket t-shirts and used yellow fabric paint to add Swamp People sayings.

Amber is the baker of the group, so she volunteered her services to bake "Ol' Swampy." He's just a bunch of cupcakes covered in green frosting. The scales were chocolate Honey Grahams, the teeth and eyes were marshmallows and the claws were banana Runts. So cute (and tasty!).

Amber working on the appetizers. The camo party hat is a must for any aspiring chef!
Our menu?
Appetizers: Fried Alligator Tail (pretty good: like a chewier version of chicken)
Entrees: Chicken with Red Rice, plus Muffalettas for Landon and I (Oh, Corner Grocery in NOLA, how I wish you were closer to Charleston!)
Dessert: Ol' Swampy (above) and vanilla ice cream

Landon had a special birthday boy alligator hat that we made him wear.
All in all, a GREAT birthday party! I loved that we had leftover cupcakes from Ol' Swampy. Guess what's been my breakfast and snacks since then? :)

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

I'm still in London, and there's just SO much going on that I'll have to update later, but in the meantime, here's a recipe I've been meaning to share for some time now. Let me know if you like it!

This dish (another from my Pinterest recipe board) takes some prep work with cooking the chicken and two kinds of rice, but the end result is totally worth it. Plus, it makes a TON of food, so you could make it for a family gathering or you could make it and freeze what you couldn't eat in the first couple of days. Landon and I ate on this dish for DAYS (for lunch and dinner and a couple of snacks) and we were still just as happy with it on the last day than when we first tried it. 

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole (originally from Picky Palate)

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 Tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 Cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
2 Cups steamed white rice
16 oz prepared wild rice (I get mine at Trader Joes, LOVE it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Cheese Sauce
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Cups chicken broth
2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
Top with 1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat oil into a medium dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Saute onion, celery and carrots until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in chicken, both rices, salt, pepper and garlic salt.  Reduce heat to low.
2.  To prepare cheese sauce melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Whisk in flour, salt and pepper then slowly pour in chicken broth whisking continuously.  Whisk until thick and nearly boiling then stir in cheese until melted.  Pour cheese sauce into rice mixture then transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with additional cheddar cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted through.  Serve.
8-10 servings

What I Think Book Review: Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography

If you've ever wondered why London is so consistently influential, then you need to first understand its history. Though it is anything but a quick read, Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography provides an incredible and sweeping look at London's long history that will keep you reading despite the seemingly overwhelming 900+ pages.

I've long been a fan of Ackroyd (his fiction is just as good as his non-fiction offerings), and I was delighted when I received this book for Christmas from my brother-in-law. (Thanks, Lyle!) At that time, I knew I was going to be in London (where I am now), so I figured it would be the perfect way for me to prepare for my upcoming field trip. 

Ackroyd doesn't just give the reader a dry review of London's past. Instead (and the title should be a clue here), he approaches the history as if London were a person, which makes for a much more interactive reading experience. He doesn't write in perfect chronological order, though the book does begin with the Stone Age inhabitants and ends with modern London. He may begin a chapter with a description of 17th century church bells, and then bring the sounds of London forward to more recent times. It is a unique approach--one that I've never encountered before--but it works. There were a few times when I was reading that I was so struck by the intricate weaving of past and present in the book that I wondered how in the world Ackroyd kept all of this information straight in his head while writing. 

All aspects of London's past are covered: the Roman Lundinium, the Anglo-Saxon Ludinwic, the origins of Cockney English, the sights and smells of Victorian London, and the terror and effects of World War II. He also includes sketches, paintings, photos and carvings to illustrate each period of time. 

I adore London, and I thought I was well-informed about its history, but after reading this book, I was surprised at how little I'd actually known. For any history-lovers or for an Angolophile, this book should be a must-read.