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

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.

Mom’s Visit to Atlanta

mom and me

Blue shirts, blue house. We take matching seriously in this family.

This past weekend was one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating weekends I’ve had in a long time.  We had a busy summer full of weddings and a family vacation, and even now that we’re traveling less, we’ve still been very busy lately getting settled into our home.  My Mom paid us a visit, arriving last Friday and staying through the weekend…our first overnight house guest!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch...thanks Mom & Dad!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch…thanks Mom & Dad!

It was nice not to have a set “agenda” for the weekend.  Back when Drew’s or my parents would come to visit when we were still living in the apartment, we would try to pack our schedule with lots of things to see and do, just so we wouldn’t be all crammed in a small space.  Now, it’s nice to relax on the front porch, go for a walk around the neighborhood, and cook a delicious dinner…or do nothing at all.  One of my favorite memories of visiting my parents during my college years were the late nights we’d spend curled up on the couch, talking for hours.  Years later, nothing has changed.

Mom love her granddog grandchild

Mom loves her grand-dog grandchild

Shortly after Mom arrived on Friday night, we went to Miller Union for dinner.  I’d been once before for a work dinner, but this was Drew’s and Mom’s first time.  The atmosphere is very lively but classic, and I could definitely see Drew and I going back sometime soon for a date night, or to just sit at the bar and watch the bartenders make cocktails from scratch.  We all enjoyed our dinner but the highlight of the evening was definitely dessert (duh).

Homemade s'mores with cherry cordial ice cream, and chocolate truffle cake with black pepper ice cream.

Black pepper ice cream…sounds strange. Verdict? Surprisingly delicious.

The weather was perfect all weekend long and we spent the majority of Saturday walking around Atlantic Station, and exploring shops on the Westside.  We didn’t even go back to Midtown, our old stomping grounds.  That’s one of my favorite things about Atlanta: there are numerous neighborhoods to explore and each pocket has its own charm and hidden gems.  Even though Miller Union was delicious, the two dinners we cooked at the house were just as tasty.  We made cajun shrimp pasta and toasted Drew’s homemade bread.  Mom picked up a bottle of red wine for us at a wine shop earlier in the day which accompanied the meal perfectly.  Sunday night we grilled veggies, chicken and salmon, and Mom made brownies for dessert.  Drew has definitely become a pro at using the grill!

us cooking

pasta dinner

The weekend ended far too soon, as it always does when you have friends or family visiting.  It was just the quality time I needed until I’m able to see everyone again during Thanksgiving…the holidays will be here before we know it!  And every time I sit in one of our porch rocking chairs (my parents’ housewarming gift to us), I’ll think of them.  Drew’s grandparents and parents will also be visiting in the coming weeks, so we’re looking forward to playing hosts again very soon.

Life’s A Beach

suitsDrew and I both took some time off work last week to head to the beach for a few days for much-needed rest and relaxation.  We left early Thursday morning for the six hour drive to my parents’ house in North Carolina.  It’d been just over a year since the last time we went, and the time before that was our unexpected, but nonetheless wonderful, honeymoon trip.  Every couple of months, no matter what time of the year it is, I get that old familiar itch that can only seem to be scratched by digging my toes into the sand and listening to the peaceful roll of the ocean waves.  After wrapping up one  of the busiest months I’ve had at work, and lots of traveling for Drew, it was the perfect timing to just plunk ourselves in beach chairs and just, be.

blueberries

scones
The weather was absolutely perfect the entire time we were there.  I was a bit nervous as Mom and Dad said that it had rained every single day for almost the first two weeks of the summer.  Crazy!  We’ve been experiencing an uncharacteristically rainy season in Atlanta, so I was all too happy to ditch the rain for several days of pure sunshine.  Taking advantage of the weather, Mom and I headed to the local blueberry patch to stock up on the freshest berries, and we enjoyed Mom’s famous lemon blueberry scones for breakfast the following morning.

beach1

We spent most of our time at Holden, playing bocce ball, searching for seashells and just enjoying the simplicity of a day at the beach.  Theo seemed to remember the ocean from last time and had no trouble heading straight for the waves.  It turns out that Dad and Drew are a pretty even match for bocce ball.  Mom and I, not so much, although we did have a few lucky breaks.  We spent Friday night in Southport, attending a wine tasting and eating dinner at Loco Joe’s, one of the restaurants Drew and I went to during our honeymoon.  Southport is home to some great seafood, but I think some of our best memories come from cooking back at the house.  Dad is the grill master and Mom is great in the kitchen, so we always eat well during our beach stays.  I must mention that Drew got brave and even tried a bite of grilled tuna, which had been marinated in teriyaki, that “tastes just like a steak!”  Imagine that.

Our departure came too soon (doesn’t it always when you’re in paradise with some of your favorite people?) and with the rainclouds moving in, it was time to head home.  Thanks to Mom and Dad for hosting us for the perfect weekend, we had a great time!  Already thinking about the next time we’ll be able to come for a visit 🙂

beach3

beach2

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.

033[1]

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!

photo 1

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 😉

026[1]

Enjoying lunch at Brickstore Pub in Decatur

028[1]

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?!