A Last Hurrah of Summer

So this is a much delayed post…but as you’ll soon learn, it’s been a busy past few weeks for us!  Now how’s that for a cliffhanger?  Unless you’re know us well, then you obviously know what I’m hinting at 🙂

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A few weekends ago we spent an afternoon boating on Lake Lanier.  One of our friends found an awesome deal on Groupon for a large group to spend several hours on the water, wake-boarding and just soaking up the last few precious rays of the summer sun.  I do no such thing as wake-board, but I definitely enjoyed the latter.   The weather was perfect with barely a cloud in the sky.  Even though it’ll stay relatively warm in Atlanta for another few weeks, it really was one of our final “hurrah’s” of the summer season.

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The following afternoon we spent strolling the streets–literally–around Midtown.  Last May, the city put on an event called Atlanta Streets Alive, closing down Peachtree Street to traffic and letting people walk freely while checking out storefronts and pop-up events.  Drew and I had so much fun last time (climbing a rock wall was involved) that we were excited to find out they were bringing it back again so soon.  The weather was perfect and we spent over 2 hours walking several miles, exploring stores, running into friends and soaking up the sun.  We never doubted how wonderful it is to live in Midtown, right in the heart of everything, but it’s events like this that make me love Atlanta even more.

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After spending several hours outside, where the temperature neared 90, we were quite grateful to be back in the AC.  The temperature has been slowly dropping since, and I can’t help but be lulled into the Fall season when my Pinterest feed is being overrun by Halloween decor and the return of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte.  So, true to form, I made a breakfast cake that has Fall written all over it.  I want to eat this while sitting on the back of a hay ride, snuggled in a sweater and watching the leaves change colors.  Also, the accompanying frosting is not optional. 

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Apple Spice Breakfast Cake with Caramel Frosting
Makes 1 bundt cake or 2 medium-size loaves

Ingredients
For the cake:
1 container vanilla or plain yogurt
3/4 cup apple butter or applesauce
1 large egg
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large overripe banana, smashed
1 3/4 cup apples, chopped
1 tsp each of the following spices: cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

For the frosting:
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bundt or loaf pans. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, apple butter or applesauce, egg, vanilla and sugars until combined. Add in banana, apples and spices. Slowly mix in flours and baking soda and stir until just combined, but be careful not to overmix. Pour into pan(s) and bake 40 min. or until inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Allow to boil for one minute, add in brown sugar, and allow to boil for another 2 minutes while stirring continuously. Remove from heat, stir in milk and vanilla. Sift in powdered sugar, whisking until frosting becomes thick. Allow to thicken about 5-10 minutes before pouring over cooled cake.

Atlanta Beltline Southwest 5K Ver 2.0

race1I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year since Drew and I ran our first race put on by the Atlanta Beltline Running Series. Time flies! We actually procrastinated registering for this year’s race up until just about a week beforehand. Waking up at 6 A.M. on a Saturday is not something I want to do often, but I figured it would be worth it. Plus, no doubt I’d gotten faster than last year and really wanted to see what kind of time I could pull out. No offense to The Color Run, but if you’re trying to get a PR or run competitively, that is not the race to do it.

Race day arrived, and we literally rolled out of bed, laced up our running shoes and drove out to the course.  It was the exact same route as last year, which is both good and bad.  The first part of the race started off-terrain and while Drew, a former cross-country megastar, was excited for it, I’d much prefer all 3.1 miles to be on smooth, flat pavement.  Thankfully that part of the race went by pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was within reach of the finish line.  The race seemed to go by a lot quicker than last year and when I looked up at the clock to see my final time, I understood why.  I beat last year’s time by a whopping 3 minutes!

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It was great to see and hear Drew rooting me on from the finish line.  After running the race step for step together the year before, we both decided that we would queue up together at the start, but each try to do our personal best.  Drew finished with a 21:00, while I followed shortly behind in 21:56.  Sweaty and happy, we celebrated our great runs and headed toward the post-race party for some water and vendor swag.  As it turns out, I ended up winning my age group and placing 6th overall female.  I even got a huge winner’s mug to show for it.  Drew did great as well, placing 4th in his age group and 23rd overall out of over 300 runners!

After heading back home for some much-needed showers, we walked to Piedmont Park for yet another jaunt at the farmer’s market.  I was determined to get my precious almond iced coffee since I’d missed in the weekend before.  We also headed back to the Nectar food truck for their delicious breakfast paninis.  I ordered the tried and true egg, mozzarella and pesto panini while Drew changed things up a bit with the spicy chipotle chicken.  With another race day in the books, I’ve already set my sights on another 5k in September that several co-workers are running.  Should be fun!

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Farmer’s Market Saturdays

For the past few weekends, Drew and I have spent our Saturday mornings exploring the farmers’ market at Piedmont Park.  It’s about a mile walk from our apartment, and the weather has been perfect for picking up breakfast, strolling along all the vendor booths and people-watching.  I’ve discovered I have an iced almond coffee obsession and we found a new-to-us food truck that makes a killer breakfast panini.  The last time we went together, we bought a bag of Georgia peaches.  Fresh peaches always remind me of my mom making homemade jam or throwing together a peach and blueberry cobbler.

peaches

Since I already had all the ingredients on hand, I decided to make a peach crisp rather than a cobbler.  It’s the perfect no-fuss dessert for the hot summer months, especially when paired with vanilla ice cream.  In addition to the crisp, I also made a cheese and spinach quiche for a dinner several nights ago.  Not able to forget the amazing quiche we had at the bed & breakfast we stayed at during our recent trip to Savannah, I decided to make my own.  I also whipped up a zucchini banana bread for our breakfasts during the work week.  Baking with fresh fruits and vegetables has got to be one of my favorite things about this time of year.

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Peach Crisp, makes 6 servings
Ingredients:
6 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 stick butter, cut into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×9 baking dish.  Layer peaches into bottom of dish.  In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients, cutting in the butter with a fork. Sprinkle topping over peaches until evenly covered.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and bubbling.

quiche

Cheese & Spinach Quiche, makes 6-8 servings
Ingredients:
1 prepared pie crust
1 Tbs olive oil or butter
3 cups fresh baby spinach (or you could use frozen spinach)
1 cup cottage cheese
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese
4 eggs,  beaten
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a skillet, heat oil or butter over medium heat and saute fresh spinach (if using) until tender. Remove from skillet and let cool. Line 9-inch pie plate with crust and prick bottom with a fork. Sprinkle half the cheddar cheese onto crust, then layer in the spinach.  In a bowl stir together the cottage cheese, eggs, pepper and nutmeg.  Pour over the spinach layer, then add the remaining cheddar cheese on top.  Bake for 45-55 minutes or until quiche has set.

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Zucchini Banana Bread, makes 4 mini loaves or 2 larger loaves
Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs cinnamon
2 eggs
1 container banana flavored Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
2-3 large over-ripe bananas
1 large zucchini, finely shredded
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F and grease the loaf pans. In a medium bowl, mix together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt, bananas and vanilla. In small batches, mix in the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips if using. Bake for 30-35 minutes for small loaves, 45-50 minutes for larger loaves, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

We have several weekends of travel coming up–including a wedding and a much needed trip to the beach–but I’m sure whenever we are in town on a Saturday, we will be heading to the farmers’ market.  Hopefully we’ll slowly be able to ween Theo off the jumping-on-people stage that he is currently in and we’ll be able to bring him along.  And the iced coffee.  Must always get the iced coffee.

theo

A {Surprise!} Baby Shower

group

Last Thursday night,  instead of our usual weekly couples’ get-together, we threw Anna and Jami, our resident mommies-to-be, a surprise baby shower.  This little plan had been in the works for a good two months, and I have to give our group of girls a ton of credit for keeping it a secret for that long-I know it was hard for me!  The looks on their faces when they walked into the room and we all shouted “Surprise!” were priceless.

waffle bar

The food spread and decorations were incredible.  When you have two interior designers among your group, you know the party is going to be stunning.  After dinner–which consisted of a waffle bar, fruit platter with dip, breakfast quiche, cake and the world’s best baklava–we decorated onesies and wrote inspirational messages on two canvases that Elle had painted for the girls’ nurseries.  Toward the end of the night, the husbands swooped in (after holing up in a bar for most of the night, far away from the “ooh’s!” and “ahh’s!” that accompany a baby shower) and demolished the leftover waffles and cake.  I think that was the extent of any male participation in the shower.

babyshoes

paintings

The night was absolutely one to remember.  I am beyond grateful that I made friends with such an amazing group of women relatively quickly after moving to Atlanta.  Drew and I talk all the time about how blessed and lucky we are to have been led into fellowship with such an amazing group of couples.  And there goes any resolve I’d had about not writing an overly-mushy, baby-crazed blog post.

My contribution to the breakfast-themed potluck were cinnamon roll cupcakes.  I’d never made such a thing before but used the logic that cinnamon rolls are delicious, and cupcakes are delicious, so together they would be a double dose of deliciousness.  The batter smelled vaguely familiar to my Mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls, and I could have eaten a bowl of the brown sugar cinnamon streusel with a spoon.  Except that I didn’t, because I’ve heard of the cinnamon challenge and it scares me.

cupcakes

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Cinnamon Rolls Cupcakes, adapted from this recipe
Makes 1 dozen

1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus brown sugar, packed
1 Tbs cinnamon
3/4 cup plus white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 12 muffins tins with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, beat butter at medium speed until fluffy.  Add white sugar and beat until combined.  Add egg and vanilla.  Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk into the bowl, continuing to beat at medium speed until everything is incorporated.

Drop a spoonful amount of batter into each muffin tin.  Sprinkle brown sugar cinnamon mixture.  Add another spoonful of batter into each tin and sprinkle the tops with remaining cinnamon mixture.  I took a knife and swirled everything together to make sure the brown sugar cinnamon mixture was evenly dispersed throughout.

Bake cupcakes for 20-22 minutes (I took mine out right at 20).  Allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.  To make the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy.  Turn mixer down to low and add powdered sugar, a small amount at a time, until frosting is fluffy and spreadable.  I used the open star decorating tip from Wilton to frost the cupcakes.

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Mom and Dad Visit Atlanta, Round 2

Since the last time my parents visited Atlanta was over a year ago (not trying to make you two feel bad or anything, I promise!), I was extremely excited to have them in town this past weekend.  So much has changed since their last visit: Drew and I both have new jobs, our apartment is looking at little more homey–it’d only been a few months after the wedding when they came to visit–and, oh yeah, a dog lives in our apartment now.  Coincidentally, they were also visiting during a pretty big weekend-both St. Patrick’s Day and the Georgia marathon were on Sunday.  Their first few minutes in the city were spent experiencing the organized extreme chaos that is Atlanta traffic.

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Reunited at last! Mom may have been more excited to see Theo than us…

Thankfully, Friday night’s dinner was just a short walk away from our apartment.  After stocking our freezer and pantry with some of Mom’s best homemade goodies, we set out for Takorea.  I had been talking up this Korean/Mexican restaurant to Mom and Dad for months and not surprisingly, it didn’t disappoint.  We got two orders of sesame fries for the table-I think those were Mom’s favorite food of the entire weekend.  And trust me, we ate a ton.

Saturday we awoke to absolutely perfect weather.  I’d been watching the forecast all week and the weatherman actually got it right-low 70’s and sunny.  Much, much better than the cold snow back home in Kentucky, right guys?  We went to Flying Biscuit for breakfast, a cafe Drew and I had been meaning to go to since we moved to Atlanta-especially since it’s just a few blocks from the apartment.  After another great meal we decided to take advantage of the warm weather and head to Piedmont Park.  After a quick browse through the farmer’s market, we headed on to the dog park.  We met a bunch of cute dogs and of course Theo was the life of the party, as usual.  One dog in particular would not leave Theo’s side for even a second.  We called him ‘stalker dog’ for the remainder of the visit-he even tried to leave with us and made an escape run for the gate!

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We spent the rest of the day relaxing until heading back out for our dinner reservation for JCT Kitchen.  Fries apparently were the theme of the weekend.  While browsing our menus, we raved to Mom and Dad about the truffle oil Parmesan fries.  I think those were Dad’s favorite thing.  I’m sure he and Drew could have each polished off their own bowl.  Thankfully, they shared with their wives 😉

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Enjoying lunch at Brickstore Pub in Decatur

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Sunday was another beautiful day, although a bit chillier with the sun hiding behind clouds most of the day.  After attending church and showing Mom and Dad the new building that Grace Midtown moved into almost a year ago, we headed out to Decatur for lunch.  Drew and I figured we needed to celebrate St. Patty’s Day appropriately, plus we couldn’t skip an excuse to go back to Brickstore Pub.  Once again taking advantage of the nice weather, we dined outside and then browsed the shops along the square.  Before heading back home, we drove through Decatur, showing Mom and Dad where we hope to move next year.  We discovered some really, really nice neighborhoods (and some not-so-nice ones).  We even stumbled upon two little girls running a lemonade stand.  It’s still a ways away yet, but Drew and I get excited thinking and planning for the future.

Cheeeeese.

Cheeeeese.

Just when you think we wouldn’t be able to stuff ourselves with anymore food, we went all out and ordered deep dish for dinner.  Nancy’s is a restaurant that actually originated out of Chicago and makes authentic deep-dish style pizza here in Atlanta.  Soon after, with happy hearts and full bellies, we said our goodbyes.  It was a weekend full of fun, laughter, great food and some much-needed time with family.  Mom and Dad, thank you so much for coming to visit and see our stomping grounds, filling our freezer with enough meals to last us a month, and making us feel so loved.  I know how proud you are of the two of us, but really, I’m just as proud and blessed to have such amazing parents.  Until next time!  And hey, let’s not make it almost a year and a half again, OK?!

It’s Been a While…

Before I began writing this, I scrolled to see when the last time I posted here was. Wow, needless to say, this blog post is long overdue.  I don’t know what exactly caused me to stop blogging regularly, or if it can really be pinpointed to one thing in particular.  And it seemed that the longer the lapse grew, the easier it was to keep putting it off, saying I can always just start writing again tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Or even the day after that.  My blog, my rules.  The rest of 2012 came and went and still no sign of life on The I Do Diaries.  I don’t like making New Year resolutions, but I do want 2013 to be the year I get my blogger butt back in gear.

When I first started this blog just a few weeks into Drew’s and my marriage, I long contemplated the name “The I Do Diaries.”  Obviously married life and the role of wife were completely foreign to me, so I wanted to capture it as best, and authentically, as I could. Admittedly it seemed a little self-absorbed and egotistical, but as my Dad told me over the phone just a few days ago when I told him I was planning to get back into blogging, “What blog isn’t?”  Fair enough.  Still, I’m so glad that for the first year of our marriage, I kept a pretty thorough documentary of our new life together.  I like to think of it as a sort of virtual diary, from which I’ll be able to look back on and remember some of the greatest moments and “firsts” we shared together.  This thought is ultimately what has brought me back to the world of blogging.

So even though, by society’s standards, Drew and I are no longer considered newlyweds, and it might not be as poignant to blog about our experiences and man and wife, there are still many, many firsts that we have yet to encounter.  Buying a house.  Moving.  Starting a family.  Rescuing another animal from a kill shelter. Inevitable job shifts and career changes.  Traveling the world.  Not simply entertaining the idea of starting my own small baking business, but actually doing it.  Sculpting a life-size model of Bob Ross made completely out of cheese.  (That last one is a joke, but I’m sure Drew would be a willing party).  The fact of the matter is, every morning when our alarm clock goes off at 6 A.M., we are making a conscious choice to say “I Do.”  As a married gal of a year and a half, I can say without a doubt that it’s the easiest decision I get to make every day.  Everyone calls the first year or two the “honeymoon” phase but as Drew and I talk about the big life events looming ever closer, I am convinced that the best years are still to come.

I don’t want to end this post by saying that I’ll blog about “such and such” and reach a certain quote each week.  It doesn’t seem authentic, and I don’t want to put myself in a box.  That would completely take the fun out of blogging for me.  Besides, to be honest, we don’t lead that exciting of lives.  I could spent the next several posts catching up on what has happened in the past 5 months, but that just seems like a waste of time.  If you do need a refresher, stalk me on Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or Instagram.  For a self-proclaimed shy, introverted person, I sure do have a lot to say.

Drew Turns 25!

This past Saturday we celebrated Drew’s 25th birthday.  That’s right, he’s officially halfway to 50! We’ve been lucky that both of our birthdays have fallen on the weekend this year.  That way, we get to spend them together and really drag them out, which is a specialty of ours 🙂 He received several comments from friends throughout the day chiding him for turning half of a century old, but let’s hold off on that for a while 😉 Although I do have to admit, I slipped and said the same thing once-it’s easy to do!

After sleeping several more hours than we get to during the work week, we went for a run outside.  Since we’re both running in the Color 5K this coming Saturday, Drew wanted to take me on a run of the course so I have a better idea of what to expect come race day.  There were a few more hills than I’d like (heck, I’d prefer if all 3.10 miles were on a flat road!) but I was able to finish thanks to Drew’s encouragement.  When it comes to running outdoors, I’ve found that I tend to give up a lot easier than when I’m running on the treadmill, so I really appreciate that Drew’s going to stick with me during the race.  I’ve got a time in mind that I’d like to beat, but  I’m not writing it here for fear of jinxing myself. Hopefully I have happy news to report come Saturday!

Drew posing in his new shirt with the drawing I made him for his desk!

After our run we ate some lunch and took it easy around the apartment until heading to the movie theater to see The Hunger Games.  Both Drew and I had read the book and were beyond excited to see the movie.  We always go to Landmark Art Cinema, a hole-in-the-wall as far as movie theaters go, but we like it because it’s quaint, cozy and patrons are serious about their movie watching. I don’t think I’ve seen a single kid running around in all the times that we’ve been.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll leave it at this: I LOVED it.  It stayed true to the book and the casting was phenomenal.  It’s one of the few movies that I definitely plan on buying when it comes out on DVD.

Drew's cookie dough layered cheesecake before it went in the oven. The end result was delicious, but not very pretty.

For his birthday dinner, Drew asked that we got to Takorea, and I of course had no problem with this pick.  After first discovering it on Scoutmob, Takorea has become one of our go-to restaurants. It’s only a few blocks away from our apartment and has a really great menu and a fun atmosphere.  Dew ordered his tried-and-true pork and chicken tacos and sesame fries.  I brand out and tried a few new things: a grapefruit margarita and the curry falafel dish. Both were very good!  We actually ended up running into our neighbors while there.  That’s the great thing about Midtown; it’s in the middle of a huge city but you’re still able to feel at home and run into people you know all the time.

We went back home for dessert and to watch a few episodes of Mad Men. We’re still on the third season so I’ve had to tune out all the hoopla surrounding the Season 5 premiere. I made cookie dough cheesecake layers bars and they were a real hit with the birthday boy.  He also loved his drawing I made for him to hang up at his desk at work.  Another part of his birthday present included tickets to see The Flaming Lips, Young the Giant, and AWOL Nation in Centennial Park mid-May.  Yep, we sure do know how to stretch out birthdays in this family!