Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Christmas Card

Who doesn't love a good Christmas card? This year I decided that we might as well give in to our (my) crazy cat lady-ness and feature dear Stella front and center...We had a few bloopers on the way, as you're prone to...Like any good Will Ferrell movie, my favorite part might just be the gag reel, so please enjoy:

After way too many tries, including several where my brother thought he was taking pictures but wasn't, we ended up with something usable, and after throwing some filters on it in PicMonkey we were good to go. Without further adieu,

Meowy Christmas to all!

I'm linking up with the Walk with me by Faith Christmas Card Carousel.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Life Lately

Hi! I truly can't believe that we've reached December.

The past 12 months have been something of a whirlwind. I feel like I was on a carousel that just kept speeding up and finally something had to give to get it to stop. Well, it stopped! At the end of October I accepted a job offer and started a new job in mid-November. So far, life is feeling much more balanced and all of the stress and craziness I was experiencing in my past role feels miles and miles away.

It's a little bit scary because I let myself get so busy and wrapped up in work that I only have very vague memories of the past several months. Days just melted together and I can't remember much besides working! Needless to say, everyone in my life is happy that I have made the job change, and I am too!

I spent my birthday weekend in Washington, D.C., hanging out with my brother. We ate all sorts of delicious food in D.C. and even made the trek to Annapolis and cracked open some crabs. Frontier Airlines now flies direct from Charlotte to Dulles for dirt cheap - we're talkin $92 all in. The only thing to be aware of is that Frontier charges for carry on bags. It ended up being cheaper to check my bag, but in the future I may challenge myself to pack for the weekend in a backpack because you still get one personal item for free. I actually think they're on to something...

Annapolis Harbor

We hosted my parents and brother at our house for Thanksgiving and everything came out darn near perfectly - even the pie I bought at the grocery store :) We've finally finished the leftovers from all the turkey re-incarnations we made after the Thanksgiving meal was over.

Tonight my big plans include hanging at home, with wine (the Black Box Cabernet is delicious! Highly suggest!), a fire in the fireplace, Candy Cane Joe Joe's, a cat who has taken up residence in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, and as many Christmas movies as I can cram in.

The next several weeks are looking pretty exciting, now that there's finally time to make plans. Over the Thanksgiving weekend we bought tickets for a January getaway to Puerto Rico, and cashed in some Hilton points for the hotel room, making it feel somewhat worth it that A. has spent a stupid number of nights in Hilton hotels this year. I'm kind of tempted to buy a Hilton Home comforter, both because I think they're comfortable but also because I think A. might feel more at home at a Hilton than at our house due to how much he's traveled this year.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Bucket List

Can you feel it? A few mornings recently I've been feeling that shift to fall in the form of crisp morning air. Fall really is such a nostalgic, cozy time. As much as I'd love to just curl up & chill, I've got some stuff I'd really like to do this fall!
-Make homemade applesauce- 
Gina from Skinnytaste has a delicious crockpot applesauce recipe that tastes just like pie.

-Hot air balloon ride-
 last year we skipped out on the Carolina Hot Air Balloon Festival in Statesville due to bad weather, but I'd really like to take a hot air balloon ride to take in the fall foliage from new heights.

-Host a pumpkin beer tasting-
The invites have been sent, and the beer has been purchased...

Apple cider donuts, please!
Self-explanatory, I think.

-Go to the Mountains-
I've got plans for a cabin weekend in Gatlinburg with a few girlfriends...can't wait for the views, pancakes, and moonshine!

-Carve a pumpkin-
I haven't carved a pumpkin in a few years! I wanna get my hands in some pumpkin guts this fall.

-Trick or treaters!
We've been living in apartments for the past several years, and we're really looking forward to having some trick or treaters this year!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Re-Introduction


It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted round these parts, and now seemed like as good a time as any to say hey! I can't promise I'm back for real...but I'm going to make an effort to drop in with more regularity. Life's been BUSY since we last spoke!

Hi, I'm Kiri.

I live in Charlotte, NC. I'm originally from Philadelphia, but lived in the Houston, TX area for almost four years before moving to Charlotte in 2013. I've been married to my husband, A. since July 2012, though we've been together for over 10 years. We built a townhouse in Charlotte, which we closed on about two weeks after my last blog post. I also started a new job a few weeks before we moved (wouldn't recommend that to anyone!), so things have been pretty hectic these last 6 months. I've written so many "I'm back" posts that sit in my drafts folder - I've been pretty bummed that the whole reason I started this blog in 2013, to document DIY and house projects, kind of fell by the wayside over the past several months.

Can't find a more recent picture, at the moment.

We've got a sweet, rambunctious Maine Coon cat, Stella, who brings us a lot of joy as she chases us around the house and drinks water out of our abandoned cups. I've never done online dating to find a date, but I did find Stella on and it was love at first sight. We arranged a blind date a few days later, and from the moment we saw her little tongue sticking out of her mouth in her cage, we knew we had to have her!

I've known for a long time that I wanted to work with senior citizens...and have in some capacity for several years. I've learned a lot in my current managing people is HARD, work/life balance is real (and I suck at it), and that sensible work shoes are probably a necessity at this point in my life (I average about 15,000 steps a day at work, according to my phone pedometer, so flats just don't cut it anymore...) Also, I seem to find the best coworkers who become great friends everywhere I go!

 -We have a Southern Bucket List which encourages us to get out and do things we never thought we'd do. When you move far away from family and friends, it's easy to feel like you're missing out, so our bucket lists have been great.
A Texas Bucket List item...Dinosaur Valley State Park

Confession time! No one in my "real life" knows about my blog, except for my husband. Or, if they know, they're staying awfully quiet! I'm not hiding it, I just don't go out of my way to talk about it. Every time I consider spilling the beans, I chicken out...

Anyway, it's nice to be back, even if it's only sort of!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Days

Growing up in the Northeast, we were no strangers to snow. Since moving to the South five years ago, we haven't seen much snow though. It's been just long enough to bring back the wonder and excitement in snow. For me anyway. It also helps that our apartment complex has a parking garage and we don't have to shovel. Nothing ruins a magical snowy day like having to scrape your car off.

On Wednesday we walked around the neighborhood until we found a restaurant open for lunch, then came home and watched the snow fall throughout the afternoon.

I wasn't expecting Thursday's snow to last as long as it did, or amount to as much as it did. When it was finally over and done with I took another little stroll through the neighborhood, running into people carrying the necessities (beer not milk) and enjoying the quiet of no cars whizzing past on our slightly hilly street. Then the sun came out and the blue sky peeked through and I headed up to our rooftop terrace.
So quiet!

I loved finding this little snow man (about 6 inches tall) on the roof. Against the Charlotte skyline he holds his own though, right? All about perspective. I'm soaking in the last few weeks of having this view.

Now that it's over I feel like I'm done with snow for awhile, so hopefully that'll be it! Hoping the warmer temperatures coming our way (high 60s and 70s early next week!) will make it disappear before it reaches that ugly gray slush I remember from my childhood.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekend Recap and Menu Planning

Looks like Charlotte is in for a second round of winter weather this week - hopefully it's pretty and short-lived. We had another errand filled weekend - oil changes, shoe shopping, furniture building etc.

Saturday we lazed around for most of the morning and then enjoyed a delicious brunch at Tupelo Honey in South End. We'd been in Asheville in the fall for a late lunch and were looking forward to trying the new location in Charlotte. My husband got a gift card for Christmas that sweetened the deal a little bit. Everyone is right when they say it's packed - we arrived around 11 and waited 20-25 minutes for a table for 2. The brunch food was even better than what we'd had in Asheville. Of course the biscuits and jam were delicious. I got the crab scramble and A. had the fried chicken with biscuits & gravy. There were huge chunks of crab meat throughout my scramble and the biscuits and fried chicken were amazing as well. We'll be back for sure, but it won't become our regular place - the parking lot is a disaster and there are plenty of other places you can have brunch without the wait. Next up on my brunch list is either Nan & Byron's brunch buffet, or Queen City Q - if for no other reason than their epic Bloody Mary which comes topped with pulled pork and shrimp.

We also watched a bunch of Olympic events, including my cousin's first race on Sunday morning. She finished in the top 60 and qualified for a race Tuesday morning, while I'll be streaming live. We picked up some copper(plated) mugs recently for the full effect for our Moscow Mules, which we put to use for the Opening Ceremonies.

When we went by our house on Sunday afternoon but the garage door was down and the doors were locked, so we did a lot of peeking in windows. I'm excited that the doors are locked - it means that they're on to things that they don't want stolen! 16 days to closing.
Only a few exterior changes since last week - downspouts, garage door, lighting fixture/outlets etc.
I wrote about our new living room furniture last week. We'd planned to keep it boxed up for the next few weeks, but ended up putting together (I mostly watched, but tightened a few screws here and there) the media cabinet and coffee table over the weekend when we cleared off the old ones for sale/donation. I love them! I think it's a sign that I'm officially old and lame that I'm this excited about furniture. I'm also waiting on an area rug for our sunroom that I ordered during a flash 60% off sale last week.

And now for our meals for this week:
Oven Fried Pork Chops, Garlic Pasta, Salad
Chicken Gyros with Tomato & Cucumber Salad
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Green Beans
Penne A la Betsy (Shrimp Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce) and salad

Make sure you stock up on all the necessities for possible snow day(s) - at our house that means plenty of movies, snacks, and spiked hot chocolate. Never understood the milk, bread & eggs craze - I usually only buy those every few weeks...maybe most people make french toast on snow days?

Friday, February 7, 2014

First February Five on Friday

Happy Friday! Linking up to share my Five on Friday.

1 // Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that tonight is the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics. I'm excited! My cousin is in Sochi competing in her first Olympics! It's been really interesting to follow her journey to the Sochi Olympics over the past year, because they competed in Sochi about a year ago and she told us all about how there was NOTHING there and that they were literally moving a river to build the main roads in and out of the Olympic complex. Now, her pictures look much different. I'm sure we've all seen the reports of journalists arriving at unfinished hotels and other strange happenings, but so far my cousin hasn't reported anything being amiss on her end.

2 // In honor of the opening ceremony I've got all the ingredients to stir up some Moscow Mules tonight. I discovered Moscow Mules at a bar in Boston about a year and a half ago and it quickly became a favorite drink of mine. And yes, I know that Moscow Mules were created in the United States, but I don't care.
3 // Tea Tree Oil
In the words of the Frank's Red Hot commercial Grandma - "I put that $h!t on everything!" My husband used to whine and complain about the smell of tea tree oil, but I've since caught him using it on stubborn spots or irritated ingrown beard hairs. I'm a firm believer that if you have a skin issue, put some tea tree oil on it.

4 //  Yuengling Ice Cream
In college I used to transport 30 racks of Yuengling from Philly back to school because it was impossible to find in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, ice cream is not as easy to transport across state lines, because while we do have ready access to Yuengling beer in Charlotte, they won't be carrying the new ice cream line here (yet.) With flavors like root beer float, vanilla fudge chunk with pretzels, and black & tan (salty caramel ice cream with a swirl of Belgian chocolate) I'm going to make a point to grab a quart the next time I'm in Philadelphia. And actually...the ice cream isn't new, they produced ice cream during the Prohibition and until 1985, and now it's back in a few select East Coast markets.

5 //  I'm not sure if I should be proud or horrified but I was alerted last night that I was the second person at my university to sign up for Facebook when it became available. My friend was the first. We were sitting together in a first year Global Society seminar when we found out our school had been added to the (at that time) relatively short list of colleges on The Facebook. Our dorm had also led a campaign to email Facebook to get them to add our school. So crazy to think that it's been almost 10 years since that Fall day in Global Society.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

House Inspiration Boards

The thought of more than doubling our living space 3 weeks from TODAY is simultaneously exciting and daunting! I've been mentally filling our space since even before we started the building process, so to see it all coming together is a dream come true. Here are some inspiration boards I've been working up on PicMonkey for a few of our rooms, including some items we already own or have ordered, and others that are just inspiration that tie a room together:

Living Room 
We have a light tan leather couch and loveseat which will be the main furniture in our living room.

1. The rug is from Rugs USA and bought online over the summer during a blowout sale. We got really lucky that it was exactly the color we wanted, sometimes screen color does not equal real life.

2. The media chest is from World Market, part of their Madera collection. We picked it up along with a coffee table (4.) and two end tables (not shown) this past weekend during the last day of their furniture sale. My World Market Explorer membership got us an extra 15% off.

3.  I love these throw pillows, also from World Market. They are a really close match to the rug. Now we just need to find a few more pillows in another accent color.

4. The matching Madera coffee table. Right now my car is filled with cardboard boxes, as the Madera collection requires a little bit of assembly.

5. This is a dried flower arrangement that I pinned awhile ago, I'm on the lookout for some decorative accents for our coffee table and mantle.

Master Bedroom

1. This is our new bedroom set (not the bedding) which will be delivered once we move.

2. We got this bedding over a year ago on clearance from West Elm - ours is an earlier version and doesn't have quite so many flowers.

3. Got this birch print for about 75% off retail on Joss & Main in January.

4. Starting to research curtains but probably won't get anything for awhile - first I'm researching paint colors.

5. We got 3 of these prints (different flowers) for Christmas two years ago and they currently hang in our bedroom.

6. My parents got our wedding certificate matted and framed at their local frame shop for Christmas 2012. It will either hang in our living room or bedroom (which is where we have it now.)

Guest Bedroom
When our new bedroom set is delivered we'll be moving our current set into the guest bedroom. For the past few years our guest bed has just been a queen size mattress and box spring on the freebie/cheapy metal frame from the mattress store, and we've always used our second bedrooms as a combination guest room/office, so I can't wait to have a more pulled together looking room for our overnight guests.
1. Just ordered these shams and duvet cover from West Elm, once again taking advantage of a clearance bedding sale.
2. I keep imagining "spice" or slightly redder sheets for this room. So, I'm on the hunt for the perfect sheet set.
3. This is similar to a piece of art we already have, with wrought iron in a cherry-ish wood frame. Another piece of art I'm planning to hand in this room is a framed water color painting that my grandfather did.
4. Just a thought for the curtains.

I keep going back and forth on what I want to do with our sunroom. I'd love for it to be a cozy nook filled with plants and perfect for curling up with a book. I can't wait for our view of the sky in the evening, we're on the end and have windows along the west side of the house, so we should get some pretty sunset views (until we get neighbors.) Anyway, this room is clearly the least well thought out at this point. I have grand plans to make a custom piece of furniture using our cake stand wood slab from our wedding.

I guess you could say I have a thing for purple and green. It started well before our wedding but those were definitely the colors that dominated our decor and have slowly been taking over our living space. When I moved in with my husband (then boyfriend) he had a lot of red and black stuff (both his college AND company colors), but it seems to have faded out over the past 4.5 years. I'm very aware that I need to be careful or else we'll end up like Marie and Hank from Breaking Bad, whose entire house was shades of purple (okay, maybe not THAT extreme, but I'm nervous about it.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weekend Recap

We had an unintentionally busy weekend - but it was really productive. My husband's travel is slowing down a bit (after getting caught in Atlanta an extra day and night because of the snow & ice), so we're back into the swing of things.

Friday night we had dinner at Cajun Queen in Elizabeth. I had a Groupon that was about to expire so we finally stopped procrastinating and went. I thought it was pretty good but I think I've been ruined for cajun food by our 4 years in the Gulf and a few trips to Louisiana. After dinner we watched some movies from Redbox and called it an early night.

Saturday we were up early and ran a bunch of errands and got our grocery shopping out of the way. I was hoping that by going fairly early on Saturday would help us beat the crowds stocking up for the Super Bowl, but not so much. I've never seen our Harris Teeter so crazy, every checkout line was open and each one had long lines.

Sunday was the day of taking advantage of big sales. I've hated our current coffee table and TV stand for years - and I'd been eyeing a set for awhile - between a furniture sale and a 15% off coupon we saved almost $300 - so we went for it. We also got a new bedding set at West Elm on clearance, so we can replace an old "bed in a bag" set that A. bought when he moved to Cleveland right after college.

As is our Sunday tradition, we also stopped by our house and we have grass, paint, cabinets and countertops, and a few of our wrought iron balusters are in! This week we'll get floors and other fixtures. It's coming together so quickly now. I think I'm in denial a little bit because we should really probably start packing.

Did you watch the Super Bowl? Puppy or kitten bowl? What was on your menu? Our final menu ended up being pretty delicious - but definitely not typical Super Bowl fare. I spent a lot of time researching different recipes from Seattle and Denver and this is what I came up with:

Grilled Balsamic Salmon Kebabs
Barbecue Bison Burgers with a Coffee-Dry Rub
Baked Potatoes

Since we ended up having such a busy day on Sunday, I didn't make any of my typical dips, snacks or dessert. I wasn't impressed with the commercials, and didn't care much about the game. My husband pointed out that the commercials might not be as good now that companies are "leaking" their would-be Super Bowl commercials online and saying they're banned to get them to go viral. Why pay the huge Super Bowl prices if you can just put it on Youtube? I think he might be on to something, but I hope not because so many who never watch football make a point to watch the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wedding Upcycle: DIY Chalkboard Edition

This will be the first of a few future posts on "upcycling" items from our wedding. If I had to pick one word to describe the decor at our wedding it would have been woodsy. Our reception was held at the top of a big hill overlooking the woods, and we incorporated ferns, birch centerpiece vases and table number holders, DIY terrariums, and a few wood slabs/slices. In terms of decorating our living space, I've always loved some of those same elements - rustic, woodsy, and natural - so it's great to be able to reuse some of these items 18 months later. Meaningful, and they don't break the bank - which is key when you're about to have a house to fill!

Our cake knife and server were displayed on a tree slice (which was WAY smaller than advertised on the site I bought it from - comically so actually because I'd been hoping to display our cake on it!) When I complained they basically said "sorry, it's a natural product, we can't guarantee size (despite offering different sizes on their site), so we'll refund you and you don't have to send it back." Sweet, free cake knife plate. 
As you can see, the cake never had a chance of fitting on the small slab.
The slab has been sitting around in a drawer since our wedding and just recently I started playing around with ideas for what to do with it. I considered painting ferns or flowers on it, but eventually decided to join the masses of chalkboard lovin' people and turn it into a chalkboard with seasonal designs (so much inspiration on Pinterest!)

This was an easy, quick, and cheap DIY project - the trifecta of a good craft project, amirite? The only things I had to buy were the chalkboard paint and chalk. I will say here that I bought chalkboard markers at Michael's first and then read the instructions at home which said they were only for non-porous surfaces (aka NOT wood), so I hopped on Amazon and bought a mechanical chalk "pencil" which is meant for sewing - it comes with a bunch of skinny pieces of chalk in white and  various other colors and it comes with a sharpener, so you can write in really fine lines.

I started by tracing along one of the tree's rings with a pencil, I wanted to leave a small space between the painted surface and the bark.

Next, I used a skinny paintbrush to paint over the pencil line so I'd have a clear spot to stop when I went in with my foam brush.

The chalkboard paint I used works on most porous surfaces and you have to do two coats, one vertical and one horizontal with an hour of drying time in between. Here it is after one coat:

I ended up doing more like 4 or 5 coats. I love that you can still see the wood grain through the paint. Finally, I played around drawing with the chalk a little bit. Can you tell our move into the new house is heavily on my mind?

I'm already having fun coming up with ideas for future designs. I think I'll attach hardware on the back so it can be hung two ways, or find a plate holder and display it on top of a side table..hmmm.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Simmering//Thai Ginger Chicken Soup

I find myself checking the weather report practically hourly to see if we'll get snow here in Charlotte (and how much!) This chilly weather they're calling for makes me want to curl up with some hot soup and a good book - so this week I'm on a mission to make several pots of soup and a big batch of sweet potato cornbread. I love making soups and my husband LOVES eating them - I think it might be his favorite food group. I especially love that you can transform basically the same 6 ingredients (carrots, celery, potato, chicken broth, garlic, and onion) into so many different soups from around the world. Here's what I'm thinking:

Creamy Sausage & Spinach Soup
Thai Chicken Vegetable

First up last night was Thai Chicken & Vegetable Soup. I'd seen the Swanson flavored Thai Ginger vegetable broth in the grocery store a few times but hadn't bought it until this week. There's a recipe for Chicken Soup on the back of the carton, so I started there and made some tweaks. I added a bunch of extra vegetables, some rice, and thickened it up a bit at the end. You can use whatever veggies you like best in here. There are also recipes for rice and pad thai on their website - I bet both would be yummy!

Thai Ginger Chicken & Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Swanson/Campbell's Kitchen

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used Trader Joe's coconut oil cooking spray)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchstick-thin strips (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium red pepper, cut into 2-inch matchstick-thin strips (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, cremini)
1 cup raw broccoli
1/2 cup yellow onion cut into thin strips
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1/2 cup baby corn
1 carton (32 ounces) Swanson® Thai Ginger Flavor Infused Broth
2 cups cooked chicken
1 can (about 14 ounces) unsweetened light coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt to taste at the end

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the carrot, onion, celery, broccoli, baby corn and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the mushrooms.

Add the broth to the saucepan and heat to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Stir in the chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is hot, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the light  coconut milk and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling.  Stir in the lime juice just before serving. Salt to taste. Spoon a serving of jasmine rice into each bowl, if desired.

NOTE: If you prefer a thicker soup, you can use a cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon of corn starch and one tablespoon of water mixed together in a bowl) - adding one 1 tablespoon of each at a time (I ended up using 3 tablespoons each to get it to my desired thickness).


Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekend in Charleston

I mentioned last week that we had a busy weekend ahead - well it was busy, but it was also a ton of fun.

Friday night we headed out to George's Brasserie in South Park here in Charlotte to take advantage of their Restaurant Week menu - the meal was fabulous - we started with mussels and lobster bisque, followed by beef bourginion and coq au vin, and creme brulee and chocolate cake for dessert. We thought everything was delicious. Then we headed home for a quiet evening of Redbox movies.

Saturday morning we got up early-ish and headed down to Charleston, arriving there around lunch time. Before checking in to our hotel we had brunch at Poogan's Porch - it was amazing! I had shrimp & grits with poached eggs on top. If you know me in real life - I'm a lover of shrimp & grits, and can rarely turn down eggs benedict if it's on a menu - so this was like a match made in heaven.

After brunch we walked around the Charleston City Market for a bit and then headed to the hotel to take a quick nap and shower before meeting up with my husband's coworkers for the fundraiser we were attending.

We had drinks and appetizers at Leaf and then headed to a night of music, local beer, and Firefly moonshine. The fundraiser raises money for Pattison's Academy, a school for children with multiple disabilities - I was shocked (in a good way) to find out that the therapeutic school is free for the children to attend. Anyway, the music was fantastic - featuring several songwriters playing songs they've written for famous country stars. It was incredible to head the songwriters themselves sing the songs - in some cases better than the version you hear on the radio.

Sunday morning we got up early again and walked to meet up with our tour guide for a historic walking tour that I'd booked for us. We'd taken a tour offered by Free Tours by Foot last February in New Orleans, so when I found out they offer tours in Charleston, we hopped right on that! The tours are name your own price - you can pay or not pay (but the tours are amazing, so I can't imagine stiffing them) at the end of the tour. They operate in about 7 cities, so I always check to see before we go to a new place that we know nothing about.

We walked around the historic district for two hours learning about Charleston's history - which was perfect because it was our first time there.

After our tour we grabbed a quick barbecue lunch - yummy pulled pork baked potato, and then headed back to our hotel to grab our stuff and get back on the road.

It was a quick trip, but it definitely whetted our appetite to go back again soon!

Friday, January 24, 2014

5 on Friday

Happy Friday! Linking up a little late for Five on Friday. P.S. Is it totally weird that I always remember that January 24th is the birthday of my crush in middle school? I have a memory for weird numbers so it's not out of the ordinary for me, just random. Another story for another day is that my best friend since 7th grade and I bonded over our mutual crush on the same boy...usually these things tear girls apart, we built the foundation of our friendship on it. Luckily he was never interested in either of us! Anyway...on with my Five.

1. I'm so excited to finally have my husband back in town after back-to-back-to-back business trips that have had him out of town for most of the last three weeks. We had plans for a lazy weekend but turns out we're headed to Charleston for a night for (another) work-related trip for him. This will be our first time in Charleston, so I'm excited to take in the sights before and after attending his work event. And, the weather is supposed to be in the 50's, so our plans for a historic district walking tour shouldn't be TOO frigid and miserable.

2. I used my time home alone to make an effort to eat pretty healthy and actually didn't eat meat for the past 11 days. It helped me lose all the holiday weight, plus one extra pound from my "usual" weight. I really didn't miss meat, but I don't think I'll be going meat-free full-time.

3. Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Chai - I've been enjoyed iced chai lattes at home the past few days (yes, even despite the chilly weather I prefer them iced.) I love that the whole canister costs about the same as one latte at a coffee shop and makes seven at home lattes.

4. I also spent some time this week crafting, turning one of our leftover wedding decorations into a chalkboard - I'll be sharing the results on the blog next week - but I'm really happy with the way it came out. Now to figure out my first chalk design...

5. Though I've yet to see if with my own eyes, we were supposed to get a driveway and cabinets installed at the new house this week...making a trip over before we head out of town.

Hope y'all have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


As long as I can remember I've been a guacamole/avocado lover, but that was not the case for my husband...until we moved to Texas. I was shocked when he returned from a business trip in San Antonio proclaiming his new-found like of guacamole. I'm actually not sure if he'd ever had it before then, or had always just assumed he wouldn't like it. So, on our next trip to San Antonio, he took me to the restaurant, Boudro's, on the Riverwalk, which made this opinion changing guacamole. It was definitely a game changer - chunky avocados with a definite citrusy "zing." When you Google "Boudro's," it automatically fills in "Boudro's San Antonio guacamole recipe," so it's obviously a sought after recipe, they also make it table-side, so it's not hard to figure out what goes into it, the secret is just tweaking the  proportions a bit. I used to use a seasoning packet from the grocery store, but haven't looked back since finding this recipe. If there's a guacamole naysayer in your life, try this out on them.

Guacamole (inspired by Boudro's)
1-2 ripe avocados
5- 10 grape or cherry tomatoes, or 1 small tomato when in season (I hate unripe/pink tomatoes with a fiery passion so I usually use grape or cherry tomatoes until we're well into tomato season)
1/4 small onion, minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced (optional)
Juice of 1/4 an orange
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Garlic salt

Like potato salad, I think guacamole is something that needs to be salted again right before serving, so I tend to purposely undersalt it when I first prepare, then cover it tightly and let it all "marry" in the fridge for a few hours and then add some more garlic salt just before serving.

If you ever find yourself on the San Antonio Riverwalk, I highly recommend making a reservation at Boudro's to try the original!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Superbowl Food

A few years ago I decided it would be fun to change up the standard Superbowl chili/queso/wing/pizza menu and make dishes inspired by the teams that were playing in the game. That way, even if I don't care about the teams playing (I usually don't), I still get excited during the playoffs and weeks leading up to "the big game" trying to plan our game day menu. Of course it changes depending on if we're watching at home or attending a party. After hearing that Denver and Seattle were playing, I hopped on Google to check out famous foods from each city. Apparently I wasn't the first one with this idea - lots of people were joking that the perfect food to represent both cities (in light of recent legislation) would be pot brownies. I ended up expanding it to include regional foods because I didn't find too much in the way of specifically Denver food.

Here's are some of the possibilities:
-Smoked Salmon & Scallion Dip
-Colorado Green Chili (I know I said I wanted to change it up, but this chili has pork and isn't your standard)
-Coffee-rubbed Bison sliders (love that this combines both cities - coffee for Seattle and bison/game for Denver/Colorado)
-Mini Cherry Pies - doubt I can find Rainier cherries at this time of year but we'll just stretch our imagination and use good old fashioned canned.
-Colorado Cowboy Cookies

Of course we'll also have chips etc, but especially in light of the Velveeta shortage(!!), it's nice to have some fresh new ideas to try out.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Foodie Five on Friday

With Charlotte's twice annual Queen's Feast kicking off tonight, today's Five on Friday link up is dedicated to 5 restaurants in Charlotte I can't wait to try!

1. Like many Charlotte residents, I have been planning our Queen's Feast restaurant week dinners since the restaurants and menus were posted right after the holidays. I've actually changed my mind, and our reservations a few times. But, I think we finally have it  all figured out. The first restaurant we'll be dining at is George's Brasserie in Piedmont Town Center. I've heard amazing things (especially about their Happy Hour) so I can't wait! From perusing the cocktail menu, I also know that I'll be trying their Spicy Mule (Tito's Vodka - my favorite, lime, ginger beer, and jalapeno.)

2. If you're like me, you may find it hard to limit yourself in making Queen's Feast reservations, but what with our building a house, and then filling a house, and traveling out of state for a ton of weddings this year, we're trying to cut back on dining out. That being said, we've "limited" ourselves to two restaurants for the week. The second restaurant is Bistro La Bon, another that I've heard great buzz about, but we haven't made it there yet.

3. My parents were looking for a few last Christmas minute gifts for my husband and I suggested a few restaurants that were opening up in Charlotte that we haven't been to yet. We've been to Tupelo Honey in Asheville, and tried to go in Greenville (but the wait was outrageous), so we're super excited to have it open in Charlotte now. I've heard the wait is already crazy, so we'll wait for a random weeknight when we don't feel like cooking, or a weekend morning when we wake up early.

2. Nan & Byron's - I feel like Nan & Byron's opened to huge fanfare, and I can't wait to try their food. We loved our anniversary dinner at 5Church, and love comfort food - so you can't really go wrong, can you (especially with another Christmas gift card!)

5. Finally, after my incredible birthday dinner at Good Food on Montford, I can't wait to try their new Italian concept sister restaurant, Stagioni, on Providence Rd. The menu looks incredible, and if they're as well thought out and expertly prepared as every single thing we ate at GFoM's (seriously, the meal was pretty much flawless), we're in for a treat.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meatless Mania

I meant to post this on Monday, but never got around to was a nasty weather day and I was in a blah, yeah!

I'm tackling one of my "life list" (as yet unposted - does it still count if I do it before I go public with the list?) items the next two weeks and am planning to go meatless. I've never really been one for strict diet plans, and have always just held myself accountable and balanced out unhealthy meals with eating well, but between the holidays and falling into a bad pattern of eating out (it's fun in a new city!) I feel like I need a little break. Plus, A. is super busy with work through the end of the month so between a bunch of short trips and other meetings, I'm on my own for a bunch of dinners - which makes this the perfect time to cook up lots of meatless meals. He's not crazy about most meatless meals, so I'm planning to make a bunch of my favorites, plus try out a few I've had bookmarked for awhile.

Here are some of the meals I'm planning:

-Creamy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese
-Eggplant & Pesto Panini
-Egg, Tomato & Scallion Sandwich (I was really skeptical about this combination when I first came across it on Skinnytaste, but once again Gina has a hit.)
-Quinoa & Spinach Burgers (makes me think of the kween-o patties in the Bud Light/NFL commercials)
-Spaghetti Squash fritters
-Greek Quinoa Salad

-Noodles and Broccoli with Peanut Sauce (so easy and delicious)
-Eggplant Parmesan
-Spaghetti Squash Primavera
-Mushroom Stroganoff
-Chana Masala (Indian chickpea dish), spinach & crispy saffron rice - I stole a few cans of a chana masala from my parents' cabinets. There's an Indian bistro in their neighborhood that also sells cans of some of their food at a few local grocery stores.

The hardest part is deciding when to make which meals! I'll admit now that I'm cheating on a few items and using chicken broth - but I'm looking to vegetables, legumes and quinoa for my proteins.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Let's build a house!

Today we're 45 days out from closing on our first home and work on the exterior is quickly coming to a close. It has been so much fun to drive by every week and see incredible progress each and every time - now it won't be as obvious from the outside, but they'll be making the skeleton of a house look like a home. So I thought it was fitting today to write a little bit about deciding to build.

I never expected to build our very first house. I grew up in a 100 year old stone/brick house with tons of character. Character = glittery, patterned 1970s wallpaper that was slowly but surely scraped and walls painted to erase all evidence of over the first few years we lived there. Character = a 6 bedroom house with one bathroom, which was shared by a family with 13 children - yes 13. Legend has it that each child had 5 minutes in the bathroom in the morning and if you had a friend over, they shared your 5 minutes. Character = a shuffleboard game painted on the basement floor. You get the parents have spent 20+ years in the house adding bathrooms and making it theirs, and I had kind of imagined doing something similar. A's family on the otherhand lives in a house they built when he was little, so it was something he's very accustomed to.

The suburb we lived in outside Houston was riddled with new construction (the community started around 1975 and there are now almost 100,000 residents) and on boring weekends we'd go tour model home neighborhoods. Yes, entire streets of model homes, where you just walked from house to house to see what all of the area builders offered. We briefly considered building in TX, the prices were INCREDIBLE, and they were beautiful houses, but we waited too long to do it - we knew that TX wasn't going to be our home forever, so we stayed in our rental and appreciated the fact that as renters in TX we paid no property OR income tax.

When we first heard we'd be moving to Charlotte, I started researching houses right away. At first I was looking mostly at existing homes - but we had a hard time figuring out which part of town we wanted to be in, especially from afar. We don't anticipate moving again anytime soon, the reality of my husband's job and the company he works for is that it will probably happen at some point. So, we started looking for townhouses and other properties we could potentially rent out or sell to a new young professional couple moving to Charlotte. After searching for existing townhouses, I came across some new construction in Charlotte (probably about a year ago at this point) and started doing more research. We actually went to visit the models on our trip to Charlotte in May when we signed our lease on our current apartment. But at that point we weren't ready to commit and put it to the back of our minds.

Once we'd made the move and settled into our apartment, we went back to visit again, and decided to build. We sat on it for a week trying to decide and I remember looking over at A. a million times and saying "we're going to build a house," and he would say, "I think so." Once the papers were all signed, I felt so relieved and finally excited. I have friends all over who have real estate horror stories of losing houses they loved due to competing CASH offers way over asking, or homes selling right out from under them. My little heart (and anxious mind) just couldn't take it. It was even more perfect that it lined up almost perfectly with the end of the 8 month lease we had signed. So, while the building process can be somewhat stressful at times - at least I know that our unit is ours and no one is going to take it away! We're hoping that in addition to being our first home, it will be a good investment down the road, should we have to sell it. Plus, starting with a totally blank canvas will afford me lots of opportunities to give our home character.

Friday, January 10, 2014

First Five on Friday for Twenty-Fourteen

Okay, so not THE first, but MY first Five on Friday for the year. And it's all over the place.

1. Is it weird that I want to re-decorate for Christmas because I'm excited about all the stuff I got on sale after the holidays? Alas, we'll have to wait until next year to put it to use. I'm especially excited about the three throw pillow covers and cute iron reindeer card holder I got on sale from Pottery Barn. I love all these sentiments around the holidays (and any time): Peace, Joy, Jolly & Cheer.

2. Here in Charlotte (and practically everywhere else my Facebook friends live) experienced a serious cold snap earlier this week...cold weather calls for: Hot Cocoa spiked with Bailey's and TruWhip with Bailey's mixed in. It warmed my heart and my hands. We'll be keeping this one on the regular rotation.

I'd been reading about TruWhip on several sites like Skinnytaste etc, but this was our first time trying it - it was good! Although it reminds me of the commercial where the lady asks if you want cream or oil with your pie - but at least they're not hydrogenated oils.

3. I'm happy to report that we ordered a fridge, washer & dryer, and bedroom set to be delivered the week we move into the house. So at least for a bit, we can stop spending every waking evening & weekend moment shopping for appliances and furniture. There's still a bunch of stuff we need, but it can wait for a bit. We almost bought a floor model fridge at a great price, but then they told us that the delivery service wouldn't bring it into our house, just into the garage. Um yeah, no thanks, especially when you're offering free delivery and hook up on an only very slightly more expensive (and not discontinued) model.

4. The past few days a few of my girlfriends from high school and I have been emailing back and forth starting to plan a fun bachelorette weekend for our friend who is getting married this August in Boston. Nothing is in stone yet, but we're thinking of a wine/foodie weekend in the Hudson Valley region of Upstate NY. It's been fun to check out all the possibilities including wine tastings along one of the many wine trails, a visit to a cheesemaker, a meal at the Culinary Institute of America, and renting a cute cottage with some of my closest friends.

5. I'm always proud of myself when I pull off potstickers. They're actually easy to make, but labor intensive...once you finish though - so worth it. We had lettuce wraps and veggie potstickers for dinner this week (which I remixed as a lettuce wrap salad and potstickers one night when A. was out of town.) Here's my favorite vegetable potsticker recipe. They freeze and reheat well - just make sure to freeze them on a tray before putting them in a bag for storage, or put parchment paper between the layers or else they'll freeze together and the fragile wonton wrappers will break.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Eccentricities for a Thursday.

It's been a while since I've shared some fun personal facts with you. I'm not sure that these are going to be Earth shattering, they're just some fun facts.

- I'm probably the last person on Earth who uses the Caps Lock key...not sure why, I've just always used it and can't seem to break the habit. I've read that eventually the Caps Lock key will be phased out and I'm not sure what I'll do! I wonder why it's not like texting where it automatically capitalizes after a period.

-No, I don't want to join you on your cleanse or detox. True/False, when you hear about a cleanse/detox you automatically assume that means crapping your pants? True? Yeah, me too.

-I am not a museum person. I feel like the worst kind of person when I'm trapped in a museum. I get that the art is really historically significant etc, and I'm happy to take a quick peek at it, but I have no interest in spending hours at a museum thinking about the importance of a cast shadow. Therefore, I'm better suited for "museums" designed for small children. For instance, I loved my experience at Coca-Cola World in Atlanta because there was tons of stuff for me to do. Same with the Bacardi Factory in San Juan, Puerto Rico and most science museums (especially if there's something in "4D")

-I think this one is totally normal but maybe to an extreme. I am forever worried that I've left my straightener and/or the iron on. I never actually have, but the worry still plagues me halfway through my drive to wherever I'm going. I used to call A. on the phone when I left before him to make sure to check it. This tells me I should really get a straightener with an auto-off feature...or be less distracted when I turn it off.

-Like many people I'm super afraid of snakes...but the best part is that I made such a convincing argument to my brother about why they are terrifying that he is also now deathly afraid of them, too.

-I hate margaritas. It used to make me so sad to go out for Tex Mex and everyone else was enjoying margaritas of all types - frozen, rocks, swirl, you name it. I have TRIED but just can't do it. I also hate tequila, especially gold tequila, so the combination of tequila and sour/sweet margarita mix is just a no-go for me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Resolving to Read

My poor Kindle. I hadn't touched it in quite a while (the battery was even completely dead) and went to download a new book I'd ordered through the Kindle store. As I loaded my library, I came across no fewer than 4 books that were partially read. Apparently I've become a book abandoner. I think it's easier to do with Kindle books, you don't see them sitting there on your nightstand, so a busy week of no reading can easily become much longer. So, I resolve that before I add any more Kindle books to my library, I will finish the ones I've left half-read. Here's what I've got:

-Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir - Jenny Lawson - 11% (this is the new one I bought when I discovered the abandoned books so it shouldn't count as I'm actively reading it.)

-Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris - 15%

-Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy) - Veronica Roth - 14% (I read the first two back to back but then there was a long gap before the third and final book came out so I've had a little trouble picking up where I left off.)

-The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin - 32% (I can't bring myself to read this book all at once - I'll read a chapter and then come back to it later.)

-The Underland Chronicles - Suzanne Collins - 17% (this one has been abandoned for over a year - I had to go back several pages in my library to even find it. I'm afraid I might have to start it over again because I don't remember much from the first read.)

-In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto - Michael Pollan - 14%

I've got my work cut out for me!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pre-Drywall Walk Through

We recently had our pre-drywall walk through at our construction site. This was the first time we got to set foot "in" our house. Suddenly it is feeling very real! Our townhome is an end unit, but the layout is flipped from the model because we're on the opposite end, which has made imagining our house hard to do - I kept imagining it looking just like the model. Now that we've been in our actual house, I'm having a much easier time imagining our stuff in there, and of course it has sent me on another "pinning" spree for inspiration.

Here are a few pictures:
View from garage entry into the kitchen.

Garage out to the street. My brother asked if the garage is crooked, so it's worth noting that the scaffolding is crooked (and maybe my camera), but our house is NOT leaning.
Living room looking into the kitchen.
Looking down the entry hall to the room we'll use as an office.
Up the stairs.
Living room/fireplace
Sunroom and muddy "backyard."

Front (side) door and entry hallway.
We've been taking pictures of the outside every week, so it was amazing to see what they've been up to inside.