Thursday, May 31, 2012

Adventures in Alabama, Part 2

On Sunday morning, we all got up and got ready to to go to church (by way of Starbucks, of course :)). After the morning service, we made a quick stop at WalMart for some groceries and then met Joe at the house for a birthday cookout!

Let me just say: this man can grill. Also, I miss charcoal grills. Gas grills just aren't the same.


 Joe got the grill going while I made an egg and dairy free cake. Maggie has made this cake many times and it's always been moist and perfect. The recipe is simple: favorite cake mix, can of soda (we usually use Dr. Pepper), mix together, bake according to instructions. Amazing.

Of course, I being me, I managed to goof it.


In the end, I just heated the frosting in the microwave and poured it over in a resigned effort to make something edible, lol. It was still good, even in crumpled form. 

I may have been slightly distracted by these amazing chips, which I have discovered are just not to be had here in the North. Believe me, I've checked. If anyone I know goes down South and doesn't bring me back a bag, I will never speak to them again. :)

Of course, my favorite part was getting to chill with this little guy while we waited for everything to be done.

I was amazed at how chill Khy was about us being there. No shyness or anything. :) I can't wait until he gets old enough to remember me from visit to visit. 

  Something else Joe introduced me to, for which I might never forgive him :): Conecuh Sausages. I cannot tell you how many times since I got back that I've sat down and yearned for a Conecuh sausage, also not available in my part of the USA (I checked). Next time I go down South, I'm sooo bringing back a suitcasefull with me.

We gals were going out for a Girl's Night Out that evening, so we had resolved not to eat much at lunch, a resolution which quickly went out the window. :) A few hours after lunch, we all got dolled up to go meet Tanya for dinner at Bridge Street.

Robin and I were both wearing long maxi-dresses, and her sister Rachel found Maggie a maxi-dress in her own closet, so we all got to match! :)

We asked Rae to take a few pictures.  


Of course, she had to "test" my camera. :)

On our way!

Bridge Street is one of my favorite places in Alabama. It's amazing, bright, clean, and is perfect for strolling. Also, it's where the Monaco is located, and I happen to adore that theater. :)

 We met Tanya at Cantina Laredo. Since we were still getting over lunch, Maggie and I decided to split some appetizers - an Ensalada de Cameron con Miel, and some amazing ceviche.

So good! Scallops, shrimp, fish, capers, olives, etc. Definitely something I'll be getting again.

After dinner, we walked around Bridge Street, showing Maggie all the sights.

We tried to get Maggie to do some artsy poses. :)  

  I love the water! So peaceful.


The sunset was just gorgeous.

 Even though it wasn't running, the carousel next door was beautiful.

I had to take a picture of this tiger for Abigail. :)

We also walked up by the Monaco and showed Maggie the fountain.

We also took advantage of the streetlights and had a crazy silly photo session.

Then we went off on a walk around the lake.


The lights of Bridge Street across the water - love it!

After Tanya had to go home, Robin and I wanted to show Maggie Big Spring Park, (more info here) so we called Joe to meet us there.

 Under the bridge alongside the canals.

 Beautiful couple!

After walking the park, we sat in the back of Joe's pickup and visited for awhile before finally heading home. :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Domestic Goddess

I remember back when I was stuck in "retail hell" how jealous I'd get when I'd read Tiffany's "Domestic Tuesday" posts. I was working 40+ stinky, sweaty hours a week at all hours (sometimes going in at 2 AM, sometimes working late till after 11, sometimes working overnight), I was strung out on lack of sleep, I desperately wanted out, and when I did have a day off I wanted to crash. I didn't have any brainpower left for anything creative.

It didn't take long after I was rescued (aka hired as nanny by my amazing aunt and uncle) to regain my creative abilities, though, and now, more than two years later, I'm grateful to have both the time and resources to pursue some skills I enjoy. Like gardening. And raising a (albeit small) flock of laying hens (or "haens" as Abby calls them).

And, okay, so domestic goddess might be a stretch. :)

First, the garden: The weekend before I left for Alabama, I planted my very small aka "cute" (Abby again) garden. Right tomato plants - four heirloom for seed-saving (another skill I want to learn) and four hybrids in case my luck with heirlooms turns sour. I want to learn to make and preserve my own pasta and tomato sauce this year, so my crop will go towards that. I also have four bell pepper plants - the picture showed green, red, and yellow, so I'm not sure if one plant can produce all three colors, or what. And I have four cucumber plants, because I also want to learn to make and can pickles. Super excited about that.

As of right now all my plants have nearbly doubled in size, though I'm not seeing any fruit, or even fruity beginnings, at all. Hopefully soon! And cuz I planted them under a thin layer of newspaper, my garden is also (with a few very small exceptions) weed proof. I'm totally in to low-maintenance, in case you didn't notice. :)

My chickens are thisclose to having permanent living quarters. Right now they're sleeping/roosting under half of a dog crate, but while I was in Alabama I saw my BFF's mom's beautiful new rabbit hutches, and realized that with a little modification, they were exactly what I wanted for a chicken coop. I bought the plans at Barnes and Nobles down there (because the South is awesome, that way), studied them like I used to study for tests in college (and I was a Dean's List student), and this past weekend I drove to Lowes, purchased the lumber, nails, and some French-inspired hinges (and a matching door pull), came home, cut the lumber myself, and framed it up. I am amazingly proud of myself. Of course, now I need to get the plywood cut to wall it in, so I have to learn how to use a different kind of saw, but I'm hopeful that by next week - cross fingers - my chickens will be permanently installed in new digs. I even have the paint color picked out - ivy green and cream - and a cute idea for decoration. Stay tuned. :)

I made dinner tonight - beer bbq chicken in the crockpot. New recipe that I absolutely loved and that my family at least enjoyed. I googled a ton of recipes and ended up combining several, and this is what I ended up making:

8 chicken breasts (I'm guessing about four pounds?)
1 12-oz can of beer (I used whatever my mom keeps in the basement for brisket, I think it was Coors?)
1 jar of BBQ sauce (in this case, Trader Joe's Memphis BBQ, I think 16 ounces or thereabouts)
A good sprinkling of both paprika and garlic powder
1/2 of a good size onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste

I added everything to the crockpot and turned it on low for seven hours. Our crockpot runs very warm, and most of the recipes I read called for eight hours on low, so be advised. All the recipes I read said the sauce turns out very thick, but mine never did thicken, so we ended up adding cornstarch to thicken it a bit. You can shred the chicken breast and add it back to the sauce, but we just served the breasts whole, and they were amazingly moist and yummy.

I served it with rice and Paula Deen's Broccoli Cole Slaw, except I modified that recipe, too. :) I omitted the seasoning packed because it contains milk, reduced the oil and sugar, and upped the sesame seeds and almonds.

I have more creative projects up my sleeve - an oversized clutch tutorial (coming soon!), and a high-low skirt among them!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Do you know what this means?

Another hint? Okay...

You're getting closer...

That's right! It's SUMMER! :)

Okay. It isn't actually summer. Apparently summer doesn't start until June 20th. ??? Yeah, right. Memorial Day was yesterday, Abby is out of school, the pools are opened - as far as I'm concerned, my amazing, awesome summer starts RIGHT NOW.

Luckily, I have newly pedicured feet. Bring on sandal weather!

Today was our first pool day.

New Ariel swimsuit? Check! :)

We were originally going to go up to Calvert County to go to an indoor pool, but I'm so glad we ended up going to a friend of Bean's instead. The weather was gorgeous! And the pool/deck was luscious. I think I could have stayed there all day. :)

The girls are so independent in the water now. It's nice, but it also just underscores for me how darn fast they're growing up!

I'm sure that by the time this summer is over, between our own frequent swims and two weeks of swimming lessons, Abigail will be swimming on her own. She's thisclose already.

It was amazingly relaxing to watch the girls splash around as Bean and I sat on the steps, enjoying the water.

Gorgeous mama and little man!

I'm impressed that these pictures came out at all, cuz I was totally shooting blind - it was so bright!

Moving on...

I'm excited for this summer. Going to Alabama was good for me - I feel inspired again, refreshed, renewed. I want to try new things, explore new places, be open to new experiences. Be impulsive. Need less sleep. Roll with the punches. Let things go, because really, I'm stronger that that. Remind people how much I love them. Just do it. Pare down; need less.

It's gonna be an amazing summer.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Adventures In Alabama, Part 1

I wrote this from the beautiful Alabama. Which, I'm convinced, has something in the air that makes life seem a little more amazing, the ordinary a little more adventurous. This might have something to do with the fact that it's the home of my amazing best friend... but I'm gonna stick with "magical air" for now. :)

It began Friday with the packing. I'm not a good packer... I tend to arrive in places with a suitcase full of amazing outfits, sans underwear. Or with absolutely everything... but a toothbrush. And this time there were two of us, since Mags was coming with me (more on this in a bit!) so it was crucial that all our stuff fit in one checked suitcase.

I was pretty impressed with us! We had to sit on the suitcase to get it to zip, but then we realized that after we'd given away all the birthday and hostess gifts we were schlepping, it would relieve some of the pressure. :)

We got up way to early for a Saturday to catch our 9:45 AM flight. 2 hours to the airport plus our 2 hour wait time equaled way, way too early. But once we did get there, we had a beautiful face waiting for us! :)

Abby and her parents were on their way to Disneyland, and we actually got to share gates as we waited for their flight (and later ours). Abby was super excited about going - Chris said the first words out of her mouth this morning were "Daddy, we have to go to Target and buy dolphin food!" (They're going to feed the dolphins in Florida).

I was a little afraid she'd be clingy, as she'd mentioned several times that Maggie and I should come with them, lol, but all it took once their boarding zone was called were the words "Go feed dolphins," and she gave us goodbye hugs and happily skipped away. :)

After we said our goodbyes and their flight took off, it was our turn!

And then, just a little shy of two hours later, we arrived! :)

The first amazing thing that happened was that we got to meet Robin's equally amazing boyfriend, Joe. For starters, aren't they a cute couple?!? :)

Secondly, Joe is as fun as Rob. I think five minutes after we'd met we were all fast friends and feeling like we'd known each other for waaay longer. He has an amazing accent, by the way - though he described it to me as "redneck," I find "southern drawl with a sort of precise enunciation" to be more accurate. :)

First order of business - lunch. :)

I finally got to try Little Rosie's last summer, and I've been dreaming of it ever since. Since part of this trip was to cram as much true Huntsville, Alabama experience possible into Maggie's first ever trip down south, it seemed a fitting first meal. It was amazing. (Pocket tacos rule!)

As soon as lunch was over, we were ready to head up to Tennessee to Rutledge Falls.

Rutledge Falls is a beautiful series of waterfalls, the largest with a round deepish pool at the bottom.

Since the last photo I took had no sense of proportion, leading my dad to believe that the falls were, in fact, six feet tall at most, I am including this pict that Joe took. :)

We ladies at the top of the trail leading to the falls.

Maggie at a little viewing point topside.

 Maggie sitting beside one of the smallest falls.

 More small falls!

There were tons of people there, which was nice in a way because we could watch other people jump off the top of the falls into the pool beneath. I've been to the falls several times now, and I always say I'm going to jump, but I never have the nerve. Maggie was determined to jump, and sure enough, she watched several other people jump, scaled the fall face to the top, and leapt fearlessly. :) She came out exhilarated.

Just as I was contemplating doing the same, there was a big peal of thunder and most of the other swimmers scrambled for shore. We had a quick discussion about whether or not to go, but a moment later, the rain was already dripping. I scrambled to the rock where we'd thrown our stuff to hurriedly wrap a towel around the bag containing our cell phones, cameras, car keys, etc, and glanced up at the sky...

... have you  ever seen raindrops falling? Not out a window, but in the midst of them, face reached toward the sky to see raindrops hurtling like lightning bolts to the earth. I was mesmerized. Maggie scrambled up beside me and I told her,  "Look up!" No explanation was needed - a moment later when Robin joined us, we all stood in wonder at the sheer beauty of it.

By the time we reached the car, we were laughing and running in the rain, drops dripping off our noses, hair, etc - we were all equally drenched, even those of us who hadn't gone swimming. We piled into the car and just had to take a photo. :)

Imagine the "wet dog" smell, and you're there! :)

And then time for the ride home!

Robin's friend Tanya, who we get to hang out with sometimes when I'm in AL, was hosting a Scentsy party that evening, so when we got home we gals scrambled to go from "drowned wet rat" to "fabulous". :)

The scentsy party was fun. Chocolate fondue - in dark AND milk! :) - tons of fresh fruit, pound cake, and rice krispie treats for dipping, and a million and one... okay, eighty :)... scents to sniff.  I was on the lookout for some sandalwood wax cubes, and was kind of disappointed to discover that they only carried "mixed" scents (I'm a purist at heart I guess lol). I did find several things that I liked, though! In the end I picked up some wax cubes in in "Weathered Leather" for a leather-obsessed friend, :) some of this alcohol-free hand sanitzer in Titanium, since Abigail always complains that regular sanitzer "itches" her sensitive skin, and a scent circle in "Route 66" for my truck - which, by the way, is fabulous. :)

After we got home, Robin left to go pick up Khy, and Maggie and I showered... and fell asleep before she even got home. Completely unintentionally, I swear! :)