Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Weekend Trip to Asheville, NC

Last week we went to Asheville to celebrate Chris' birthday. This was our second trip there (we went in June and of course I was too lazy to blog about it!) and we had even more fun this time! Some highlights included Chimney Rock, having dinner with Chris' cousin Al, and visiting Biltmore Estate. I thought I'd share some pictures from the trip!

We chose to eat at LAB when we arrived on Sunday night. We shared the flatbread pizza and oh my goodness, was it delicious!

Chris' birthday was on Monday and we spent the morning opening presents before heading to downtown Asheville. We ate brunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe. That place is so good! We spent a couple of hours shopping/walking around town before hitting up Pisgah Brewing and Wedge Brewing Company. Chris chose to have sushi for dinner and we hit the jackpot at Wasabi. We shared a sushi boat and it was AWESOME!

On Tuesday we drove about 45 minutes to Chimney Rock. We wanted to do Grandfather Mountain again, but decided that it was too cold and too far to drive. Chimney Rock was much closer and still worth doing.

Later that evening we met up with Al for dinner! He drove all the way from Charlotte to see us. We had a couple of drinks at Thirsty Monk before going back to LAB. We shared a bunch of appetizers and were so full. We hadn't seen him since Rhode Island so it was great to catch up and spend a few hours together.

On Wednesday morning we went to Biltmore. My brother gave Chris tickets for his birthday and we were both so excited to finally get to check it out. It truly is a beautiful estate and was all decorated for Christmas so it was extra pretty.

That pretty much sums up our trip! We headed home on Thursday morning, after eating breakfast at Tupelo Honey Cafe (again...hey, we like what we like!).


I can't believe that we're already halfway through November. I'm so excited for Thanksgiving. My brother and his family are coming from North Carolina and of course Bill & Anita are coming down too. My mom and I have started baking pies and bread. I hope everyone is enjoying the start of the holidays! Let me know what's going on with all of you...I'd love to hear!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dog Party!

A couple of weeks ago, my little [dog]brothers had a birthday! Naturally, I decided to throw a birthday party, complete with decorations, homemade treats, and favors for the guests (yes, I realize I have too much time on my hands!). Since it was Labor Day weekend, my brother and his family were coming down anyway and they brought their dogs so we were able to have a legitimate birthday bash.

I found the decorations at Party City and was really excited that I wasn't the only one throwing parties for dogs. There must be a market out there!

I used this Peanut Butter Delight dog birthday cake recipe, but used it to make "pup"cakes and topped them with the cinnamon frosting recipe (on the same page as the above link).

For the human guests, I made sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate dipped pretzels, and a delicious cream cheese pound cake with homemade caramel frosting.

*This frosting recipe tastes amazing, but looks like crap if you don't get it spread quickly enough. It hardens really fast and once it does, it will no longer spread properly.

Here is the recipe (from Anne Byrn's book, The Cake Mix Doctor Returns):

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Vegetable oil spray, for misting pans
Flour, for dusting pans
1 package plain yellow or vanilla cake mix (I used vanilla)
4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened (I used nonfat)
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

1. Make the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325. Lightly mist two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, cream cheese, water, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the batter is smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

3. Bake the cake layers until they are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cake pans to wire racks and let the cake layers cool for 5 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of each cake layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen the cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool while you make the frosting.

Caramel Frosting
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place the butter and brown sugars in a heavy medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the milk, stir, and let the mixture return to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat.

3. Add about 1 1/4 cups of the confectioners' sugar and the vanilla. Beat with a whisk until the frosting is smooth. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, but not so much so that it thickens and hardens.

4. Ladle the frosting over the cake layers while it is still warm. If you are frosting cupcakes, spoon the frosting on top while it is warm and it will set.

The last little detail were the doggie bags I made using brown paper bags and a dog paw rubber stamp. I filled the human guest favor bags with candy and cookies. The dogs got a stuffed toy and a bag filled with dog treats.

The party was a big hit! All of the guests were worn out!

Have you ever thrown a party for your pet(s)? It's fun!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Thought I'd Finally Do An Update...

Hi friends! Long time, no talky...

Chris and I are still enjoying being back in Georgia. It feels like we've been here much longer, but it's only been about 3 months since we left Los Angeles. We are currently up to our eyeballs in the job search and I hope that something works out soon. It's a lot more difficult than I thought it'd be to find a new job. It's a tough market out there.

But you're not here to read about my job woes. Instead, I'll share some of the fun things we've been up to in the last month!

We decided to purchase a City Pass, which is a super cool deal that allows you to go to a city's main attractions for one low price. We went to the Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta Zoo, and Fernbank.

My nephew came to visit for a few days. He is 15, but I can't believe it! I still remember when he was a little guy so it's a little sad to see him all grown up. Luckily, he's a really great kid and so fun to be around.

We've been spending a lot of time in Decatur. They have so many great restaurants and beer places. We really like Leon's Full Service, Brick Store Pub, Farm Burger, and Raging Burrito. Needless to say, we've had some pretty good meals.

We also finally made it to Sweetwater and went back to Terrapin. The brewery laws in Georgia are so weird and different from what we're used to. In California, you can go to any brewery and actually buy a pint of beer. Here, you have to go between certain hours and you pay one price for tickets that will get you samples of the beer. Hopefully they get those rules changed soon.

But despite all of the good food (and beer), I've managed to lose 12 pounds since May 28. I did the AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge and it's really where the bulk of my weight loss occurred. After the cleanse, I added in exercise and lost even more. Now, I'm not as strict with my food choices and I am still exercising on a daily basis. I'm maintaining my loss, but have just started the "diet" part again because I'd still like to lose about 5-7 more pounds. We ride 6 days a week, anywhere from 15 to 30 miles. It feels really great to be back on my bike! And to be able to fit into my pants again!! Ha!

Here is a stupid picture comparison I did. The first picture is the day I started the challenge (May 28) and the second is a picture from our trip to the aquarium (July 19). I have a chin again. Yay. I was definitely more fluffy so I'm glad to back on the right track again.

So that's about it.

Maybe the next time I update, I'll have a job. *Fingers crossed!*

What's new with you??? Please share...I've missed all of you guys!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vacation Photos

Hi friends! I've been gone longer than I expected! Chris and I have been really busy the last couple of months and blogging hasn't been at the top of my list of priorities. But I'm back now to share pictures from our recent trip to Rhode Island for Chris' annual family reunion (see 2011 recaps here). We had a really great time, especially since we were able to arrive a couple of days ahead of the rest of the family to spend quality time with Chris' parents, Jeff and Danny.

We went to see the qualifying rounds for America's Cup, which was being held at Fort Adams in Newport. It was a beautiful and breezy day, perfect for sitting by the water and watching the catamarans race around the harbor.

That night, we had fresh lobster for dinner! It was my first experience eating an actual whole lobster and it was SOOOOOOO good! Jeff grilled them and man, they came out perfectly!

Chris and his dad usually take one day to go shotgun shooting up in the "country" part of Rhode Island. They decided it would be fun to take me. I'm not so sure I would agree, but I did end up having a lot of fun and I didn't accidentally shoot anyone so that's a plus. I only hit 2 clays all day, but one was really hard and neither Chris or his dad hit that (and they're really good!). They were pretty impressed!

Then the rest of the family arrived! From then on it was a full house, and we had a good time with everyone. One day we had breakfast at Sweet Berry Farm, we went to Little Compton for a picnic, we went to a collegiate baseball game (that was so much fun!), watched an awesome polo game, and we did a lot of sitting/relaxing/talking on the back porch. I think that's what everyone enjoys most!!

One day, Chris and I walked along Cliff Walk and it was so pretty. I've never lived near water, but I can see why people would want to. It's just so gorgeous.

Chris, AJ, and I drove to Patriot Place to visit the Patriots Museum and have lunch. We really didn't know what to expect, but it was AWESOME. I may or may not have pushed a kid over in order to get to Tom Brady's uniform...(just kidding, I wouldn't do that.)

July 4th was a fun day. We played a lot of Bocce and had a yummy dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs. Lizzie was so cute in her holiday attire!

The day before we left, a bunch of us went to Cape Cod to go bike riding. Once again, it was perfect weather and we had a great time. We had a nice lunch on the water and spent a little time shopping in Falmouth.

We had such a fun time and were really sad to leave! I guess there is always next year to look forward to!

PS - I realize that I wore the same gray shirt A LOT (and in black) over the course of this vacation. Best shirt I've ever bought and I now have 6 of the colors. They fit great, don't shrink too much in the dryer, and go with everything! And they're only $8 (but online they are $6!). I highly recommend this shirt!!