Christmas 2013

drew and me

The last few weeks of 2013 were quite busy for us!  So much so that I am just now getting around to blogging a recap of the holidays.  As usual, Drew and I traveled to Kentucky to spend time with both sides of the family.  Even though we both still had to check in with work every so often, it was extremely refreshing to have almost 2 weeks physically out of the office.  Spending time with family is definitely one of our top priorities, and while Atlanta is still a 6 hour drive from both of our families, we definitely were able to do so this Christmas.

canton xmas

Before heading to Kentucky, we celebrated Christmas, as well as several birthdays, with the Georgia relatives.  Then we headed to Louisville to spend the weekend with Nanny and Granddaddy.  Nanny and Granddaddy’s house is always so cozy during the holidays, and I felt honored to help them decorate this year and hear about their past family traditions.  We were also able to organize a cousins’ breakfast one morning, which was so much fun and will hopefully be a new annual holiday tradition.  The family is constantly growing, with new babies and upcoming weddings, so it was wonderful to have everyone be in the same place at once.

louisville xmas

cousins breakfast

Next up, an afternoon in Shepherdsville with my Mom’s family.  Just when we thought we’d eaten all we could at Nanny and Granddaddy’s house, more great food to enjoy! My Mom was born on Christmas Day, so we celebrated her birthday as well.  That evening we headed to Fort Mitchell, where we would spend the next few days with my parents.  Over Thanksgiving, I had mentioned briefly to Mom and Dad how much I loved baking, decorating–and then eating–gingerbread men.  To me, recreating memories is just as fun as establishing new ones.

shep xmas 2

4 on couch

gingerbread mom and me

There was a light dusting of snow on Christmas Eve…I’d been hoping for a White Christmas but I wasn’t going to complain about some flurries a day early! It hasn’t snowed in Atlanta since we’ve lived there, but I can always count on Kentucky to give me my fill 🙂

snow

Our final leg of traveling was a stop in Owensboro to visit Drew’s parents.  We spent most of the weekend trying to keep warm, staying in to watch movies and (surprise!) eat more delicious food.  The following Sunday we headed back home to Atlanta, feeling relaxed and refreshed.  Visits with family are always so special; they give me renewed energy and perspective.  Drew and I always feel so lucky to have the amazing, loving family that we do, but we always are reminded of just how blessed we are during the holidays.  While it was hard to say goodbye to everyone, as well as closing the chapter on another year, we know that 2014 will be a great year!

oboro xmas

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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree(s)

nannytree1

nannytree2

Toward the end of our Thanksgiving travels in Kentucky, we stopped in Louisville to spend some time with Nanny and Granddaddy.  Drew had mentioned wanting to help them get the house ready for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to help Nanny go through all the decorations she’s collected over the years – everything has a story.  While Drew went out to run some errands with his grandfather, Nanny and I made our way to the basement to pull out the ornaments, stockings and other decorations. She pulled out one of the stockings that she used for Drew when he was growing up – apparently all the grandchildren had the same patterned stocking but they would tell the boys’ ones apart by the stitched “UK” letters at the top. She gave it to us to take back home and it’s now hanging from the middle of our mantle.

ourmantle
Friday night, after decorating the tree with as many ornaments as it would hold, we all gathered around the dinner table for Thanksgiving leftovers, which I’d stand to argue taste even better than the day-of.  We brought leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner up in Fort Mitchell, but silly us, of course they were stocked with some of their own! If there’s one thing both of our families can do equally well, it’s cook.  We definitely had ourselves a feast.

ourtree1

We headed back to Atlanta the next morning and, inspired by Nanny and Granddaddy’s tree, decided to go out and get our own the following day. Now that we have a house, we’re able to get a much larger tree than when we were still living in the apartment. I think this one is double in size! Every night, as soon as I get home from work, I’ll plug in the lights and just stare at the tree while cozying up on the couch. Each time I seem to find an ornament I forgot we had.  I think I’m going to try to convince Drew to let me leave it up until well into January…wish me luck! 😉

A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

Drew and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  We both have jobs that not only pay the bills, but we truly enjoy them (99% of the time!)  We have a large network of family and friends that loves and supports us, our dream home, and overall health and happiness.  I often find Thanksgiving as a time of reflection, as I’m sure most of us do.  While this year has not been without its difficult times and emotional roller coasters, our blessings far outweigh the bad.

fireplace pic

Last Tuesday, we headed to Kentucky to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents and extended family.  While traffic wasn’t bad, it rained pretty much the entire way.  Theo had fun playing in the snow and even though I’d much prefer it closer to Christmas, I can’t argue that it looks beautiful.  Drew and I made the famous chocolate ganache praline cake, which is no doubt a labor of love.  We actually had to make the ganache twice since the chocolate hardened too quickly the first time.  It takes about three hours from start to finish, but one bite and it all becomes worth it.

us by the cake

It’s hard to pick a favorite Thanksgiving dish; everything is delicious and holds its own unique memories.  My Dad’s deep-fried turkey is always a hit, and my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese recipe hasn’t been tampered with for generations.  We have our twists on traditional favorites (oyster stuffing anyone?!) but definitely serve the usual suspects – sweet potato casserole, rolls and pecan pie.

the bird

After dinner, we always gather in the family room to watch football and let our stomachs settle before it’s time for dessert.  At least 3 or 4 people end up falling asleep, whether on the couch or sprawled out on the floor.  While I don’t brave the crowds and venture out on Black Friday, it’s fun to still pick through the ads.  But what’s even more fun? Sleeping in the next day and then eating a slice of cake for breakfast.

cousins

With this being the last year that my parents will be living in Northern Kentucky, the week was a little bittersweet.  We may very well be eating turkey on the beach next year, or Drew and I may even offer to host.  That being said, I made extra sure to take in all the traditions and memories: making Uncle Doug’s fruit salad, eating lasagna the night before, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade over breakfast, looking for the turkey coloring contest in the paper, pre-Turkey day spinning class with Mom, grabbing “just one more” slice of cake at 8 p.m.  Wherever we celebrate Thanksgiving next year, no doubt we will once again be counting our blessings.

Ben and Dana Get Married

Congrats Ben and Dana!

Congrats Ben and Dana!

Over the 4th of July holiday, Drew and I headed to our old college stomping grounds in Bowling Green, KY to see our friends Ben and Dana tie the knot.  Drew was a groomsman in the wedding so we headed out of town Wednesday morning, dropping Theo off at Barking Hound Village on the way.  We’d actually be staying with our friends Mike and Donna since we hadn’t seen them in a while and they had a 10-month old son, Tanner, who we couldn’t wait to meet.  Despite the rainy weather, we made great time and arrived in Bowling Green with enough time to kill, stopping at our favorite Mexican place Puerto’s before continuing on to Mike and Donna’s house.  It was so nice to be back in the town that I spent four amazing years of my life in; the last time we’d visit was Homecoming, just a few months after we got married.

The rehearsal dinner was at Mariah’s, one of the must go-to restaurant in Bowling Green.  It’s the same restaurant where our parents met each other for the first time, where I witnessed a surprise engagement of two of my friends, and where my graduation lunch was held.  Before the dinner, Drew and I drove through the main street of campus, noting all the new building and renovations that had been made in the years since we graduated.

We were actually able to see a lot of the pre-wedding photos being taken at a beautiful white house with an ornate backyard that just begged for wedding photography to be taken there.  I have got to commend everyone for making sure that Dana and Ben never saw each other during those hours; it had to be hard to be so close to your soon-to-be spouse and not even try to sneak a peek!  The wedding ceremony was wonderful and Dana of course looked stunning in her dress.  I’m a pretty sentimental person but I usually don’t tear up at weddings; however, as Ben and Dana exchanged their vows, I felt myself tearing up a little.  There’s just something so special about seeing two people whose love you’ve seen grow over the years, commit the rest of their lives to each other.

bendana2

Drew and I at the reception.

The reception took place at the Kentucky Museum, which is actually right on WKU’s campus.  Dinner was a build-you-own enchilada bar (best idea ever?!) and there was definitely no shortage of wedding cake.  One of the cakes was peach flavored and actually had peaches in it that had been picked from Jackson’s, an Orchard owned by Ben’s family.  The wedding cake replicated Dana’s wedding dress and was absolutely stunning (and delicious).  Even though it started to rain, we saw the newlyweds off with the glow of dozens of sparklers.  It was 4th of July weekend after all.

In a few weekends, we’ll head back to Kentucky to see the same group of friends, and celebrate the wedding of Matt and Rachel.  It’s exciting seeing the people so involved in our own wedding getting married themselves; I guess we are all really growing up!  To Ben and Dana, I wish you all nothing but the best and a lifetime of true happiness.  You two are such great people individually but even better as a couple.  Enjoy married life!

Wedding Season, Take 2 (and another trip to Kentucky!)

I said it before and I’ll say it again: wedding season has arrived!  Back in late April, Drew and I attended our first wedding of the year.  This past weekend, we headed back to Louisville for another wedding.  Valerie and Mitch, friends from WKU, tied the knot on June 9th.  What made it extra special was seeing a lot of close friends I hadn’t seen in a while.  Chelsea and Karly, along with several other people that I hadn’t seen since my last time on the hill, were also attending.

Thanks once again to the horror that is Atlanta rush-hour traffic, we didn’t reach Nanny and Granddaddy’s house until after midnight.  Saturday morning we met up with Bethany and Andrew for breakfast and McDonald’s.  Granddaddy told me the story of how he’d take his grandchildren Bryan and Bethany to McDonald’s almost every Saturday morning, and it became a family tradition of sorts.  It was great to catch up with Bethany and Andrew, and of course I was happy to get my iced coffee fix.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty laid-back until it was time to get ready for the wedding.  Taking a cue from a sorority formal several years ago (one of Drew’s and my first dates, actually), we decided to match and both wear green.  This definitely brought back memories! On our way to the venue, I actually plugged in the wrong GPS and we got way off-track.  After realizing the mistake, we booked it to the reception (thanks to Drew’s awesome driving skills) with literally no minutes to spare.  Nervous that we’d be caught at the “late guests” since the ceremony was outside, Drew and I quietly made our way to the back, where we watched the ceremony unfold from the back porch.

The beautiful bride and handsome groom. Congrats, Mr. and Mrs. Kaiser!

After the ceremony, we went inside what looked like a renovated old country mansion.  It had a beautiful wrap around porch and the reception area was decorated simply but beautifully.  Burlap covered the tablecloths and beautiful peach-colored sashes were tied on the backs of all the chairs.  The centerpieces consisted of lanterns and scattered rose petals.  We marveled at the candy bar consisting of dozens of green and orange-colored goodies (and definitely filled up swag bags later in the evening).

Overall the wedding was absolutely beautiful.  Valerie and Mitch looked so happy and it was definitely a magical night.  We all took advantage of the nice weather, enjoying being outside on the wrap-around porch and visiting the zebras and llamas on the farm next door.  I wore by wedding shoes (I’m determined to get several more uses out of them!) and by the end of the night my feet were aching from all the dancing.  After saying our goodbyes, Drew and I headed back to Nanny and Granddaddy’s house to spend a little bit more time with them before we all headed to bed.

Meeting Mom and Dad for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Guess it would have been easier to get a picture of all three of us together, huh? 🙂

Sunday morning Drew and I had plans to meet my Mom and Dad for brunch, just like we did on the way home from Evan and Danielle’s wedding.  Chelsea and Karly were also able to join us which was a nice little treat.  After a big breakfast at Cracker Barrel, Mom and Dad came back to the house for a bit to visit with Theo.  They hadn’t seen him since Christmas and were amazed at just how big he’s gotten these past several months.  Before hitting the road, Mom and Dad loaded us up with lots of yummy goodies and treats for Theo.  Thanks again you two, Drew and I are looking forward to the many good eats 🙂

After being out of town for the past three weekends, I’m definitely ready to stay put in Atlanta for a while.  It’s been nice to go back to Kentucky and see friends and family as much as we have, but it’ll also be nice not to have to travel anywhere for a while.  Our plans for the upcoming weekend include a long-overdue date night, a visit to the dog park for Theo and hopefully a Sunday afternoon outing with the couples from our house church.  The next time we travel will be the weekend leading up to Fourth of July when we go for a long weekend to my parent’s house in North Carolina.  By then I’m sure we will be ready for a weekend of relaxation at the beach!

Memorial Day Weekend in Fort Mitchell!

Celebrating a weekend home with Mom and Dad!

When Drew and I met Mom and Dad for brunch the day after Evan and Danielle’s wedding back in April, I mentioned to them that I had the long 4-day weekend off from work over Memorial Day.  After thinking about it all of 5 minutes we decided that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to make a trip to Fort Mitchell.  So last Friday morning, I flew to Kentucky where Dad picked me up at the airport.  My flight back to Atlanta was scheduled to leave late Monday afternoon, so I’d have a good amount of time to visit with Mom and Dad.  I was beyond excited!

After Dad picked me up from the airport, we headed out for some lunch and shopping.  After Mom got home from work, we celebrated with cocktails and dinner out at one of my favorite restaurants, Sweet Basil.  I ordered a tofu stir fry and Mom and Dad both tried a piece (good sports!), but I think they were more than happy to stick with their chicken and beed 😉 A trip back home isn’t complete without a visit to Graeter’s for dessert.  Breaking away from my usual mint chocolate chip, I ordered the Buckeye Blitz which was like a Reese’s cup in ice cream form, aka, heaven. We spent the rest of the night out on the back deck, enjoying the warm weather and talking until well after the sun went down.

Homemade watermelon margaritas…an Edwards’ family summer tradition.

Even with it the long weekend giving me the ability to sleep in as much as I wanted, I was up early for a morning workout with Mom.  Later on we headed up to Cincinnati to do some shopping at the Kenwood Town Centre, and did quite well for ourselves.  I haven’t done much shopping in Atlanta so I was more than ready to with Mom–she’s always been my best shopping buddy.  That night we made the infamous watermelon margaritas and grilled fish tacos on the back deck, with Mom’s berry trifle for dessert.  Jennifer and Derek came over for a while and we chatted about their upcoming October wedding.  It was fun talking about bridesmaids’ dresses and centerpieces with her because I was in her shoes exactly one year ago, planning my own wedding.  I also got to see their dog Kemba, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas, and I almost didn’t recognize him since he’s gotten so big!

The birdhouse where we saw three baby finches peek their heads in and out!

After church Sunday morning, we headed back to the house and I made us banana and nutella-stuffed French toast.  Drew and I have been making French toast with his homemade bread for months now, and only recently did I think to add sliced bananas to it.  I think I could eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a solid week and not get tired of it.  We spent the rest of the day lounging around outside, enjoying the extremely warm weather.  Dad gave me a tour of his garden and all the vegetables and fruits that he’s growing.  I’m looking forward to starting our garden when Drew and I move into a house.  Fingers crossed I inherited Dad’s green thumb!  We also marveled at the baby finches that had hatched in the birdhouse hanging from our locust tree, and watched as the momma bird fed her babies.  It’s incredible how such little birds can make such loud noises!

The sugar peas from Dad’s garden. They are so much fresher tasting than what you find at the grocery store!

Monday came far too soon and after another brief shopping trip and lunch, Mom drove me back to the airport.  One would think that after me being away at college for four years and now living in Atlanta that we’d be used to saying our goodbyes.  It never gets easier and I still always tear up every time we have to part ways.  I suppose that’s something that I’ll never really get used to, but I was so thankful that I got to see them for a long weekend.  It was a wonderful, much-needed visit full of relaxation, fun and good food.  We’ll be meeting for brunch again after we travel to Louisville for another wedding next weekend!

Cinco de Derby!

Winner of the 2012 Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another. Fitting name for Cinco de Derby? I think so.

I love any excuse to celebrate. So as you can imagine, I was extremely excited that this year Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby fell on the same day.  Since we’re from Kentucky, it was a given that we were going to watch the race (sans mint julep drinking, ick!) Drew’s never been, but I fondly remember going to Keeneland several years while growing up, eating burgoo and picking horses based on their funny names.  In preparation for a fun day, Drew and I made a list of events going on around town for our house church group to take part in.  While there were quite a few options, we ultimately decided to have a “Cinco de Derby” get-together at Shawn and Shannon’s house that evening.  The plan was to DVR the Derby coverage so we could watch it in full from the beginning and have a Cinco de Mayo-themed potluck.  Mexican food and horse racing, unite.

Saturday afternoon we went grocery shopping for ingredients to make our contribution to that night’s potluck: cheese enchilada soup.  We’d come across the recipe in one our cookbooks several weeks ago when searching for a good crockpot meal.  It’s not the prettiest-looking dish, but then again, what soup is?  It turned out absolutely delicious the first time we made it (we went back for seconds, and definitely were tempted for thirds) so we knew it’d be a hit with our friends.  After putting the soup in the crockpot to cook, we headed over to Park Tavern for $1 margaritas.  Yes, you read that right.  Apparently everyone else in Midtown had the same idea; the place was completely packed.  The cheap prices more than made up for the crowd though and we enjoyed several drinks before heading back home.

Our $1 margaritas at Park Tavern. Ole!

Walking into the apartment to the smell of the soup, we wanted to dig in with spoons right there on the spot.  Being the thoughtful friends that we are, we shared it with the rest of the group J As it turns out, Mexican food makes for great derby-watching fare, who knew? We had homemade salsa, guacamole, the enchilada soup, made-from-scratch margaritas, Corona and an amazing sopapilla cheesecake.  Very festive, indeed.

We had a great time watching the Derby, I’m always amazed at how they’re able to stretch out coverage hours before the actual two-minute race.  Truth be told, we actually watching the race beforehand but pretended we hadn’t seen it.   Drew “amazingly” picked the right horse to win, what a good guesser he is 😉 We had everyone fooled for about 2 minutes until the truth finally came out. Turns out, several others had heard the results too but wanted to play coy so as not to ruin it for everyone.   Seeing everyone dressed in their Derby best, and hearing My Old Kentucky home really brought me back to life in Kentucky.   Speaking of, I’ll be visiting Mom and Dad over the long Memorial Day weekend.  It’ll be my first time back in Fort Mitchell since Christmas.  Needless to say, the trip is much overdue!

Crockpot Cheese Enchilada Soup

1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds and diced (optional, if you want it spicy!)
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can enchilada sauce
2 cups milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, stir together cream of chicken soup, enchilada sauce and milk.  Dice onion, pepper and jalapeno (if using) and add into crockpot.  Add in beans and tomatoes, then pour in the soup mixture.  Add in about half the cheese.  Stir to combine and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.  Halfway through, add in the remainder of the cheese.  Serve with tortilla chips as a dip, or eat it like soup!