Tuesday, July 30, 2013

DIY Disaster Averted

Awhile back I saw a great pin on Pinterest that uses a cut up wedding invitation to make a cute, personalized ornament. After our wedding, I found a plastic, fillable ornament at Michaels, cut our invitation into shreds, along with some shreds of paper in our wedding colors, and filled the ornament. I can 't show it to you now because it's packed away in with our Christmas decorations, but I recently made another (well really a variation on the theme) for a wedding we attended.

A month or so ago I was at Hobby Lobby and saw that they have bulk packs (I think 12) of fillable plastic ornaments....I didn't buy them - argh. I figured Michaels would have them too, but when I went they said they don't carry them year-round. So, note to self, stock up at Hobby Lobby. I ended up settling for a paper mache ball ornament and figured I could cut the invitation into shreds and decoupage it. This way is definitely NOT preferable, and I probably won't do it again, but I think in the end it came out pretty well. We have a few more weddings coming up this year, and I'm planning to go the route of the plastic ornament for those. I'm even more excited because one of the brides mentioned that they don't even have a copy of their invitation because they printed exactly the number they needed. You may not want to give the gift at the wedding, if you need the invitation for directions etc, but the wedding we recently attended we were flying in and hitching a ride with friends, so we didn't need to know any of the details.

This collage version had me nervous for a few days, because it looked TERRIBLE until it had about 5 layers of hard coat Modge Podge. I'm still not really sold on it, but I wasn't embarrassed to give it to the couple after it had been Modge Podged (yup, that's a verb.) I think you'll be really impressed with my McGuyver drying technique...

Step One: Assemble necessary supplies, tear or cut invitation into small pieces. Not shown is the heavy duty wood glue that I ended up needing to use to get the pieces to stick on the round ball.

Woof - about to throw in the towel at this point.

A round ornament with corners?

After one layer of hard coat Modge Podge

Yup, using a store hanger with clips to dry this bad boy in the guest room shower.

Not my proudest DIY project, but definitely more acceptable now that it's roundish.

Not terrible. Used the little raffia tie that held their invitation together. Little details.
As I said, this is definitely not my best DIY work, but I don't THINK it will be featured on a Pinterest fail blog. If I'd stopped before the many layers of hard coat - yes. Do you ever have moments of panic in the middle of a DIY project where you almost abandon hope and walk away? I'll be heading to Hobby Lobby to stock up before the next wedding we have to attend.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sail Away

Man...this time last year we were on our honeymoon. Our honeymoon was my first cruise, and I really wasn't sure that I was going to be a "cruise person." I'm still not sure that I am, actually. We'd gone back and forth several times about what we wanted to do for our honeymoon, would we go right away? Wait until Thanksgiving to be able to use less vacation days? Go to an all-inclusive resort on some island? Go on a whirlwind trip of Europe? They're all good options! We ended up finding a cruise which left at 10PM the day after our wedding, visited 5 islands (6 if you count Puerto Rico where we left from, which I probably should), and there were direct flights. Suddenly it seemed like a no-brainer.

All of these pictures have been featured on the blog before - probably a major blogger faux pas, but let's be honest, no one was reading back then anyways!
View of St. Thomas' port from our balcony on the first morning.
Banana Daiquiri at Mountain Top
Magen's Bay Beach, St. Thomas
Catamaran ride to snorkeling
Chef's Table dinner
Pitons in St. Lucia
Caribbean Sea & Atlantic Ocean in St. Kitt's
Ferry Ride in St. Maarten
Rum Punch at the Bacardi Factory in San Juan, PR

In the end, I think the best cruises for me are these port intensive cruises - we really didn't take advantage of what the ship had to offer. We went to the sail away party on the first night, played one game of bingo, attended one comedy show, went to the newlywed game, and the Chef's Table dinner. That's about it. But, we went big at each port. Every morning we'd get off as soon as we could, and we booked excursions on every island except for one, most of them were all day combo tours. So, we used our time on the ship to relax. We booked a cabin with an aft balcony, so we didn't even have to leave the room to get some fresh air.

I do find myself looking up cruises still, because they are an awesome way to see several different destinations, the food is all included, and you have the ship as your home base if you want to drop things off mid-day. You can also get incredible deals that can't be beat, especially if there's a cruise port nearby. We never took advantage of the Galveston port when we were in Houston, but all of the cruises out of Galveston seemed to be a majority of  "sea days" and only one or two port days. Charleston has a ship that docks there, so we may check that out at some point. We're looking for a vacation sometime before the end of the year, in addition to a few weekend getaways on our list.

Monday, July 22, 2013

1 year

This weekend we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. The actual day was Sunday, the 21st, but we stretched the celebration throughout the weekend. Friday night we ate at Mama Ricotta's - and now I'm obsessed with finding a great recipe for penne a la vodka, or just vodka sauce in general - theirs was amazing! On Saturday night we went to 5Church in Uptown to enjoy their Restaurant Week menu. We arrived a little early and had drinks at the bar - A. had the New Fashioned and I had the 5Church which is basically a lychee martini. Delicious! The food was great - and I'm sure we'll be back when it's not Restaurant Week. I had the pork belly and wasabi-crusted salmon, A. had the tomato soup and hangar steak.

B&W cuz the red eye was out of control.
 I wore my wedding shoes :)

After dinner we rented a few movies from Redbox and I tried my hardest to like a dirty martini. I think I'm halfway there.

Sunday we ran some errands and then made gnocchi from scratch for the first time for dinner. I was a little skeptical but the end result was almost restaurant quality. We made it with a parmesan cream sauce with shrimp and peas.

Gnocchi, pre being shaped and boiled.
We cut up the top tier of our wedding cake - which was shockingly still delicious. It spent 11 months in my parents' freezer, and then we packed it up in a cooler and drove it back to Charlotte after the 4th of July. The top tier is a yellow lemon curd cake, the bottom tier which we cut last July 21st was chocolate with mocha mousse. It was definitely a little worse for the wear in terms of looks, but after peeling back the fondant layer, it was unscathed. 
My parents wrapped the top tier in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and 3 Ziploc bags. I took it out of the freezer mid-day Saturday, removed all the wrapping and put it in the fridge until Sunday around noon, when we put it on the kitchen counter until dinnertime.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five on Friday

Happy Friday! This is an exciting week/weekend - so I'm excited to link up and share my Five on Friday!

1. Sunday is our 1 year wedding anniversary! We'll be defrosting the top tier of our cake and toasting to many more years! At this time last year we were in a tizzy trying to get everything finished and welcoming our out of town guests. So much has happened since July 21, 2012 - a promotion for my husband, leaving my job, and packing up and driving 1,000 miles from Houston to Charlotte. Hopefully this next year is a little bit less crazy, and we can continue to settle into our "new normal."

2. Queen's Feast - Charlotte Restaurant Week - I'm so excited to try some new restaurants this week during Charlotte Restaurant Week. We have reservations at three places, including 5Church for our anniversary. I've heard good things...

3. Farmer's Market Bouquets - got this beauty for 5 bucks at the Farmer's Market on Wednesday. One of the things I loved about Charlotte when we came to visit before moving was that you can get lovely fresh flower bouquets on many corners in Uptown. My poor phone camera is struggling recently. My phone was dying at 50% battery power until I dropped it on the floor a few weeks ago, which seems to have helped the battery, but not the camera.

4. Had a great visit with my parents - it was so much fun to show them around our new city. They left this morning and I'm feeling a little sad. Luckily, we have some upcoming weekend trips and weddings to attend so we won't be without friends and family from "home" for long.

5. In a previous post on wedding details I showed y'all our card box - here. My parents brought the card box down from Philly, where it's been since the wedding. It's now displayed in our living room and I love having it here! If you read my prior post, you'll see that this card box gave me some serious wedding week anxiety, it arrived around 2:30PM the Friday (aka day before) the wedding - so around this time last year I was jumping for joy that it actually arrived!

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Nice Little Saturday (& Sunday) - Weekend Recap

Happy Monday (?!?) This week is actually pretty exciting around here, my parents are coming into town tomorrow for a few days, so it'll be fun to show them around Charlotte. We already have plans to eat BBQ, and since Chuy's just opened in Charlotte, and we never got to take them there when we lived in Houston, we added that to our dinner list as well. It's supposed to be super hot, so it may put a damper on some of our exploring plans, but oh well.

We had a pretty relaxing weekend - on Friday we picked up dinner from Pasta & Provisions on Providence Rd. They have a deal on Friday where if you bring your own container in, they fill it with either marinara or pomodoro sauce (at a discounted per oz. price) AND throw in (almost literally) a free pound of their fresh pasta. We chose the pomodoro sauce and spaghetti, and within a few minutes our bag of spaghetti flew down the zip line from the kitchen to the counter/register. Of course we couldn't pass up a few meatballs and four of their filled to order cannoli with chocolate chips. We brought everything home and had dinner ready within 20 minutes. And it was delicious. I mean seriously good. It may become a problem. Excuse the crappy phone pictures - you get the idea :)

Saturday night we made pizza and then went to Davidson Chocolate Co. in Dilworth to pick up dessert. We picked out 6 different chocolates and truffles - the best one was definitely the milk chocolate caramel pretzel. The person working told us to save that one for last and that she'd see us Monday morning...*fighting urge to go get chocolate for breakfast.* Within moments of getting home, the sky had opened up in a downpour, so that probably made everything taste even better. The only downside was that I couldn't fall asleep until sometime after 3AM, probably in part due to the caffeine in the chocolate, and the espresso truffle we got. Oops.

Yesterday went to Lowe's, dropped off a big box of donations at Goodwill and fought the crowds at the grocery store. While driving to Goodwill we passed the Mad Greek Restaurant and decided to stop in for a late lunch on our way back home. Good choice! We both got the gyro sandwich, which was superb. The pita was hot and soft, the cucumber/tzitziki sauce was deliciously garlicky, and the meat was fantastic and definitely came right off the roasting spit in the kitchen. The french fries were also great and homemade. We'll be back...probably not at 3AM, but it's nice to know it's an option (they serve breakfast all day - which on the weekends means from 10AM-4AM.)

We also binge watched the Newsroom on demand to get caught up before the season 2 premiere last night. Hope everyone else had a great weekend, too!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five on Friday

Here are 5 things I'm loving lately! Linking up with Five on Friday.

1. Greenaid Seedbombs: I don't know about you, but I get so many daily deals in my inbox that it's hard to keep up. But this week I found a deal on Groupon that I was quick to buy - a Greenaid Seedbomb pack. The pack comes with 10 seed bombs (little balls of compost, dirt, and seeds), a bandana, and a sling shot. Greenaid encourages "guerilla" greening of forgotten corners of cities. I can just imagine people decked out in their bandanas slinging seeds around in empty parking lots and abandoned lots. I bought the pack and plan to send it to a friend whose birthday is coming up. I LOVE when you see something and immediately think of someone who needs to have it. Even better is that Greenaid seems like an awesome company to support, not only do they encourage beautifying cities, they also employ formerly homeless men and women in Los Angeles. Check out their website here: http://greenaid.co/ or if you get Groupon, they are currently featured under the Groupon Goods section.

2. Peaches! I bought the most delicious peaches at the farmers market earlier this week. Everytime I walk past the fruit bowl in my kitchen, my mouth waters.

3. Adding some wonderful personal touches to our new place. I'll blog about some of my projects next week. I'm loving all the little nods to great family memories that we've got hanging on our walls. I'm definitely not settled in and feeling at home in our new city yet, so it's nice to have some reminders of home to help me along. So that this isn't a photo-less post, here's a preview - framed recipe cards of some favorite family recipes:

4. The Influenster SunKissed VoxBox. Who doesn't love getting free stuff? I received my box a few days ago and have been trying out the products. So far I like the Olay BB cream and Dr. Scholls In-Soles. I'm not wild about the nail polish color that was included - but it definitely piqued my interest in terms of checking out their other colors - so I guess it worked.

5. Empty boxes. FINALLY we are about 95% unpacked. We still have a few days before my parents roll into town, so we'll be spending some time this weekend putting finishing touches on our guestroom/office.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Road Trip Highlights

As I mentioned yesterday, we spent some time around the 4th visiting family in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. We drove from Charlotte so that we could pick up a bunch of our wedding gifts (many of them have been sitting in our respective parents' houses since last July and before!) Here are the highlights of our trip:

1. Steamed crabs at L.P. Steamers in Baltimore:

There are two main driving routes from Charlotte to Philly. One includes I-95, and the other totally avoids that mess. I advocated for taking the trafficky-I-95 route on the way to Philadelphia, because this girl wanted some crabs in Baltimore! What a loving husband I have to go along with that plan! I searched Yelp for crab restaurants in Baltimore and quickly found L.P. Steamers. It was ah-mazing! We sat on the roof top deck and enjoyed a half dozen large crabs literally crusted with Old Bay seasoning, corn, and curly fries. Totally worth the longer, more traveled route. Although, crabs are not exactly road trip food...I spent the distance between Baltimore and Philly trying to clean all the Old Bay out from under my nails.

2. Walks in the woods with my dad:
Full disclosure...this picture is from last July. I left my phone at home when we went on our walks this time around.
Philadelphia, while it is the 5th most populated city in the country, is home to one of the largest urban park systems in the world. And when I say park I don't mean a field, basketball court, and picnic pavilion. We're talking wilderness. My parents live about 5-10 minutes from many of the park's entrances, and my dad knows the trails like the back of his hand. A few mornings (when it wasn't beastly hot by 8:00am) we would take walks to explore different areas of the park. The photo above is from a frog pond. You'd never know that you're less than a tenth of a mile from the road/city when sitting on the bench by this frog-infested pond.

3. Lazy dinners in my parents' backyard. No pictures for this one, just great food and relaxing until the fireflies came out.

4. Weekend in NYC - in the middle of our trip, A. had a bachelor party to attend in NYC. I decided to tag along and stay with one of my best friends from college, who lives in Brooklyn. We don't get to see each other nearly enough, and I just love that every time we get together it feels like no time has passed at all. We had a great time visiting and exploring. I also got to see a great friend from high school who lives in the same neighborhood, so it was a great weekend!

5. Watching JAWS on board the USS Intrepid:

This was awesome. When my friend texted me asking if I would like to go to a free(!!) outdoor (!!!) viewing of JAWS, I was in. When she told me it was on the flight deck of the USS Intrepid, I was beyond excited. We walked from Penn Station to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum and got in line. We grabbed a hot dog at a cart vendor first though, which was delicious (I can't remember the last time I had a hot dog.) We waited about an hour and 15 minutes, and it threatened rain a few times, but we finally got to board and make our way up to the flight deck. Lots of people were smarter than us and brought blankets and delicious looking picnics, but our hot dog and vending machine sourced dinner worked out for us just fine. Plus, it meant we were hungry for late night pizza when we got back to Brooklyn. Apparently they also show Top Gun every summer on the Intrepid, I so wish I was going to be around for that! Aviator sunglasses everywhere, I bet!

6. Dinner at the Knife & Fork Inn in Atlantic City:
The Knife & Fork Inn has been an Atlantic City establishment since 1912. My in-laws have had a beach house about 15 minutes from Atlantic City since 2005, but this was the first time we made it to the K&F. Thanks, Yelp! We've driven by many times, but to be honest, the outside of the building sort of turned me off. It looks old and out of place - almost like a German house. How wrong was I!?! The inside of the building got a major overhaul in the early 2000s after it was purchased by a local restauranteur.  The menu boasts steaks and seafood, and potent drinks. The restaurant, with it's 101 year run, is steeped in history. It started as a men's drinking and dining club, was raided during Prohibition, and was a favorite with Frank Sinatra, local politicians, and other celebrities in the 1940s. In addition to the long history, the food is great! I ordered the Knife & Fork Inn Dinner, which includes Crab & Corn Chowder, Tomato & Mozzarella Salad, Filet Mignon and Lobster Thermidor. It was all delicious! Of course we had to get dessert, too. We got a chocolate and banana burrito with caramel sauce and vanilla gelato. It was an awesome dinner! Can't believe we passed it by so many times.

7. Accidentally stumbling upon the leftover sand sculptures from the World Championship Sand Sculpting Competition:

8. Climbing the Absecon Lighthouse:

Thankfully there are bars at the top, it was seriously windy! I'll spare you the only pictures of us because we look too windblown for the public to see.

Another landmark we hadn't checked out during our summers at the shore. A sunburn for A. on our first beach day meant we really didn't need another day soaking up the sun, so we decided to go check out this lighthouse in Atlantic City. When you get to the top of the 228 steps, a volunteer "lightkeeper" hands you a "I SAW THE LIGHT!" card with the date.

9. Playing in (or near) the ocean with our nephew. The water was freezing (about 60 degrees) thanks to all the rain in June.

10. Fireworks on the beach:
Pictures just don't do fireworks justice. In the lower right you can see the super obnoxious lighted kite that some clown (not actually) decided to fly during the whole fireworks show.

From our spot on the beach we were able to see the fireworks displays of three towns - Ocean City, Margate, and Atlantic City...plus all of the random fireworks that people on the beach were setting off on their own. The Atlantic City display was definitely the most impressive - they set off over 10,000 fireworks from 4 locations along the boardwalk.

Despite all this fun, it is definitely nice to be "home." We're STILL unpacking boxes and getting things settled. My parents are coming in a week and there's a good chance my in-laws will be in town in August, so we've got to get this place set up!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What to do with all these stubs?

Not sure how many of you had shoeboxes in your closet in high school with mementos like concert tickets, movie stubs, napkins, etc. Did you have a separate box for each new crush? If you say no, then I guess I was just a lonely loser, but I bet I'm not alone. When my husband and I started dating, we went to a lot of movies and played a lot of mini golf. What else are you supposed to do when you're 18? Well, I started saving the ticket stubs, and after 9 years I've got an impressive pile of stubs, tickets, and other mementos. I don't have the tickets from every movie we've ever been to - for instance I don't have the tickets from our first real date, to see Shrek 2. Looking back at the stubs, I realize we have seriously childish movie taste - we've been to pretty much every Pixar/Dreamworks movie in the past 9 years.

For years, the tickets just sat in a big envelope - but soon after discovering Pinterest, I found a great way to display these souvenirs from our relationship - a shadow box. For fun, I laid out the stubs by year, starting in 2004. I also included tickets and brochures from some of my other favorite things we've done together.
Here are the stubs laid out by year. I've lost a bunch of the earlier ones.
Here's the work in progress.
I got the shadowbox at Michael's last spring/summer on sale. It has a magnet to hold the frame closed, and there's an opening (not necessarily intentional) at the top that movie ticket stubs fit through perfectly, so I can just add as we go.

It's so nice to have these memories out of an envelope/box in the closet and on display.
Hi, Blog.

Been away for the past two weeks and have fallen super behind on posting! Stay tuned for a recap of our road trip to Philly/NY/NJ and other fun!