Friday, December 19, 2014

FOF: White Elephant, Friends Dinner, and Dad's Ornament


//One//

We had our office White Elephant gift exchange this week. Everyone bought a $5 gift and when it was your turn you had the choice of stealing a gift or opening a new one. Gifts could be stolen up to three separate times before they become out of play.

I bought these cute cocktail napkins for the exchange...

and I ended up with one of three (great minds think alike-ha) meditation fountains....


 In the true spirit of Christmas giving we also each brought a donation for A Child's Place .

//Two//

My friend Michelle visited from Columbia this week. She, Laura, and I went to dinner at one of our favorite places, Good Food on Montford. I highly recommend checking out the Green Curry Mussels ....amazing as always. I really love these two ladies, and had such a great time laughing and reminiscing together!

Laura also brought me the sweetest Christmas gift; homemade pasta, dried herbs, and wine.I thought it was such a special and creative gift...and who doesn't love homemade pasta... Yum!


//Three//

I have been looking everywhere for my dad's ornament this year. Last year I bought this gorgeous Willow ornament. This year I have been hunting for a Cessna airplane ornament. My dad loved flying, and had his private pilot license. He flew a Cessna while I was growing up, and I have many memories of looking down at the Christmas lights below with my him. I found one online that you could personalize, but I really like the simplicity of just the plane. I am going to check out the Hallmark store since I haven't had much luck online. The one below is perfect...but I can't find a new one : /


 //Four//
  
House Update: We have bought a couple more appliances (a washer/dryer), and they have started our floor system this week. We have also been looking at box bay-window ideas.

The original house on the left shows a paneled bay window, but we are probably going to brick up the ledge similar to the one on the right, except brick obviously in place of stone...


//Five//

 I am in the mood to do something Christmas-y this weekend. Maybe I will have to watch a favorite movie or go out and look at lights. What Christmas traditions do you look forward to each year?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Copycat Recipes

Have you ever tried to re-create a restaurant dish at home? My friend Laura is a genius when it comes to this. She doesn't need a recipe and she can recreate most anything with stunning accuracy. For the rest of us there is Pinterest! This week I had Brad pull out the grill for Carabba's Chicken Bryan. Grilled chicken topped with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil topped with a lemon butter sauce. This copycat from Christine is Cooking is VERY close to the original...so good! I served it with a little angel-hair pasta and steamed broccoli.



Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend: Leslie's Bday and House Update

We had a good weekend... with even better weather, 60s in Charlotte...this New Yorker could not have been happier!

Friday night we didn't do much. I had a lot of work to finish up so I ended up working late until around 7, and then we pretty much just ate and went to bed.

Brad woke up early to go to the land to paint tar along the brick foundation. This is needed for our second round of inspections which should be done this afternoon.

I did some shopping/errands, I picked up an awesome scarf from Green with Envy ... similar to the one below.



That afternoon I started on my big project of the day. My SIL's Birthday is today, but we celebrated it Sunday so I made her a birthday cake. I previously made a cake for my grandmother ,but it didn't go that well so I was set on redeeming myself!

By the time I finished the cake and Brad got back from the land we were beat. We had two Christmas Parties and a Birthday to go to but Brad was conked out by 8:30! 

...Back to the cake

Leslie really likes wedding cakes, so I made a homemade Almond Cake with Almond Buttercream Frosting. I am a cake newby so I way-underestimated how my cake would rise and this happened to my first batch....


 I thought to myself it seemed a little full, so luckily I caught it in time with a cookie sheet. I ended up just cutting it into cubes and freezing it (to use for a trifle), so this wasn't a complete waste.

I learned from my mistake and the second and third batch came out perfect...


I will never buy frosting again. For some reason I didn't realize how easy it was, literally four ingredients; butter, confectioners sugar, milk, and extract (I used almond but you could do vanilla, lemon etc. ). I frosted the first layer in a dark pink, and the second in a very light pink....



It's not perfect, but it's a big improvement from my first try. Making cakes is way harder than it looks, trust me! I decided to buy a carrier to transport the cake....which was money well spent. The cake would still look way better on this gorgeous cake stand, and someday I will have a kitchen in which to store it! 


I think the Birthday girl enjoyed it!



Leslie also requested the best Birthday dinner ever. Cheese fries with homemade ranch dress, a creamy pasta dish, and garlic bread! This was all them (My Mother-in-law, Leslie, and her friend Elisha), it was amazing!




There was also spinach salad but I decided it was too late for me and I leaned into those carbs-ha!


Leslie was sporting her birthday gift ribbon in her hair ...and enjoying that delicious ranch haha.

Sunday we also stopped by the land. The foundation is just about complete, and it looks awesome! As crazy as it sounds, this was the first time building felt real for me. We stood in our future living room, bedroom, etc. and it was just a very exciting feeling.



I know the photos don't look like much, but it gave me a much-needed visual.

We also got our sample of the Quartz for the kitchen counter tops. It's not 100% what we are going with, but I am fairly sure this is what I want. It really looks similar to Carrera but without the chipping/yellowing that can occur. Brad is  a big fan of natural stone like Granite, but I haven't found a Granite slab that is white enough ...I think an offwhite would look bad with the white cabinetry, and I want a very clean look.




Friday, December 12, 2014

Five on Friday: A little bit of this and that


//One//

I found this really interesting article on Huffington Post 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People by Tamara Star . Do you find that any of these habits resonate with you? Let me stress that I don't consider myself chronically unhappy by any means, but I would be lying if I didn't admit I find myself doing some of these things from time to time.

 One of the things I am really working on this year is what I call "Grass is Greener Syndrome." If you concentrate on what you don't have can you really appreciate what you do? For me, it's more of a living my life to the fullest...and having diverse experiences. I've always had this itch to do more and to take chances (when in reality I tend to be a straight path/ rule follower...much to my chagrin). I think this feeling has been exacerbated by the loss of my dad. He worked so hard and was only a few years from retirement. It is always on the back of my mind that I need to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish....experience, experience, experience. This year I want to change that and focus on enjoying the now and is rather than obsessing about the future and what could be. 

//Two// 

Via
 
I have been a fan of competitive cooking shows for a long time, and two of my absolute favorites are on right now. The Taste, where they judge blind based on the taste of one bite only. The second show is Master Chef Junior, which is amazing to watch because kids as young as six prepare mind-blowing dishes. Hulu Plus (they offer a free week trial right now) has reruns of both of these shows, so I highly recommend checking them out especially if you're a foodie. 

//Three//


Via
 
We have had a lot of new Publix stores popping up in the Charlotte area. Last night I was complaining  to my co-workers that I was at a loss for a quick dinner idea ...and was feeling particularly lazy! She suggested that I go to Public and look for their Publix Aprons counter. They had all portioned ingredients right at the counter (including frozen and refrigerated), recipe cards, and a demo so that I could taste the meal they were preparing. I am not a salmon gal so I didn't end up going with the dish, but the idea is genius! Publix Aprons solves the "what's for dinner" dilemma I often face.


 I also want to say the service I received at the Publix at Whitehall Commons went above and beyond. I work in the Consumer Goods industry so needless to say I have been in my share of grocery stores. I had no less than six employees offer help and/or recommendations. Logan at the check-out not only unloaded my cart and bagged my groceries, but then insisted on taking my cart out to my car (it was dark out), unloaded them, and then gave me a coupon for a free bagel or muffin! I was VERY impressed and will definitely start doing my grocery shopping at that Publix. Also, in case you were wondering I have zero affiliations with Publix and do not sell to them personally : )

//Four//

 For dinner tonight I am making a dish I saw on A.Liz last week,  Key Ingredient's Crockpot Cheese Tortellini and Sausage . The picture below sold me... and I love set-it and forget-it meals.

Via

//Five//

Via
 
I am currently planning a Bachelorette weekend in the Poconos. Is anyone out there familiar with this area? Can you recommend anything fun/ must-see to do? We will be there during the summer if that helps. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

House Update & Hornets Game

House Update...

 Today is a GREAT day for us because we hit water!!! Okay, let me back up... our well was dug this morning which had us on pins and needles. Basically the deeper they go, the more expensive it is. If they don't find water at all they would need to dig elsewhere. At thousands per try this is not chump change, and can really have a huge impact on the budget. Lucky for us we hit water before the 200' mark, but we will have them go a little deeper in case we decide to irrigate.

The mason also started bricking the foundation this week and should be done by tomorrow. The next step is to start framing the house which should happen very soon! I am sure we will go to the land this weekend to take pictures. 

Hornets Game...

Yesterday my company took our team and significant others to the Hornets/Celtics game. We had a private suite with lots of good food and drinks. Although I am not much of a basketball fan, it was a lot of fun and a good team bonding activity.

 Confession...I take 99.999% of my blog photos on my Iphone. Call it lazy, but my Nikon spends too much time in its case. I'm sure it shows, and it definitely shows this time haha 







Monday, December 8, 2014

Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins:

This was a very quiet weekend and thus I won't bore you with too many details.
 
While it doesn't feel like we will be moving in the next 5-6 months, I know time will go by fast. The more we prepare now, the easier it will be come moving day. I spent Saturday cleaning out the clutter.We are much more organized and it feels SO good! 

Speaking of our new house, we picked up another appliance this weekend, a dishwasher. Every time we make a final decision it feels great...just one less on our list of MANY!

After all that cleaning I rewarded myself with a little treat. I made these delicious Banana-Nut Chocolate-Chip Muffins, a great way to use up over-ripe bananas.



Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins: 

*Makes 6-7 Muffins

Ingredients:

2  Mashed Over-Ripe Bananas 
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/8 Cup Water 
2.5 Tbsp Melted Butter
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Flour
1/4 cup Finely Chopped Walnuts
1/4 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Directions:

1) Preheat oven 350 F
2) Mix first four ingredients together in a bowl
3) Whisk Remaining ingredients in a separate bowl 
4) Combine two bowls together. 
5) Pour into prepared muffin tin (using cupcake liners or cooking spray)
6) Bake 18-20 minutes
 
Sunday I finished the outdoor Christmas decorations...(Don't mind the empty planters)




I promised Brad I would not put another wreath up this year. He doesn't like that they scratch up the door and block the peephole. I've won out the last three years, so instead I just hung it over the mirror in our entryway 


 I also finished my Christmas shopping. I did 99% of my gifts online. Buying online was really easy and makes sense if you will be shipping gifts anyway. Plus I am especially fond of anything you can do in pajamas!

Hope everyone had a nice weekend : ) 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Healthy Lunches & Snacks for Work

I have always struggled with work lunches. The thing is I get bored...I don't want to eat the same-old-thing every single day. I don't want to go out to lunch too often (bad for the wallet), or eat frozen meals (bad for the body) . I do want variety, something easy on the budget, fast, nutritious, filling, and most importantly tasty : )

This week I've been focusing on preparing super healthy lunches that are helping to balance out last week's delicious yet decidedly unhealthy Thanksgiving meal. I've been eating several small meals/snacks throughout the work day (8am, 11:30am, 3pm) which has helped me stay away from my office Ice Cream Chest ...The struggle is real.




This week's plan called for one day of out to lunch with my co-worker, three homemade lunches (below), and Friday since I work from home, I will prepare something hot.  

Snack Options: 

-Fresh Fruit
- Kind Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt Bar
-1/2 Spinach Tortilla spread with 1 wedge of The Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Garlic Herb Cheese (35 calories per wedge) and Sprouts
-Unsalted Nuts (add your own salt and/or cinnamon/brown sugar)
-Avocado Slices with Sea-Salt, Pepper, and Fresh Lime Juice

Lunch Options:

Smoked Turkey & Veggie Wrap: 
-1 Spinach Tortilla Wrap
-1 laughing cow cheese wedge spread thin on tortilla
-Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
-Sweet Red Pepper
-2 thin slices of Smoked Turkey ( I prefer freshly sliced at the Deli)
-Sprouts
-Sliced Cucumber

Mayo-Free Egg Salad & Veggie Wrap:
 Avocado instead of mayo = genius...Thanks Erin ; ) 
-1 Spinach Tortilla Wrap
- Egg Salad: 2 hard-boiled eggs mashed with one Avocado + Garlic Powder, Salt, & Pepper.
-Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
-Sliced Green Onions
-Sprouts

Cucumber & Cherry Tomato Salad:*
-Cucumbers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Sea-Salt, Ground Pepper, & Italian Seasoning (to taste)
- Balsamic Vinegar and Splash of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
*I served with Tortilla cut into wedges and laughing-cow cheese ...just to fill me up a bit more.




What is your go-to healthy lunch to bring to work?
01 09 10