Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree(s)

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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.

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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.

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.

midtownlove

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. 

applecake

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.

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.

cobbler2

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

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?!

Spring is (Almost) Here!

Even though the first day of Spring technically isn’t until March 20, this weekend definitely made it seem like Winter is finally over.  Even though Atlanta weather is definitely milder than a lot of places, like my hometown for example, there were quite a few days when I was downright miserable.  Last year I only had to break out my heavy winter coat a few times; this year I’ve worn some type of coat almost every day since New Year’s.  But no longer!  Unless I’m jinxing myself, it looks like warmer weather is here to stay.

I’ve been meaning to redecorate the wreath hanging on our front door for quite a few weeks now–it seems like dark red foliage is just no longer appropriate.  I finally got the chance to on Saturday when Drew and I were running errands and stopped by Michael’s.  I’m pretty proud of how it turned out!  Hopefully I can keep it up well into the summer months before I get the urge to update it again.

wreath

After running errands, we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon before going to our friend Elle’s house to help celebrate her birthday.  It was a lot of fun to hang out with our house church friends, as well as meet some new people.  We didn’t stay out too late, knowing that the time change would make it extra hard to get up the next morning.  Even though we only lose an hour, I feel like the entire next day is just thrown out of whack.  Thankfully we had a pretty relaxing Sunday, attending church then heading to Piedmont Park for a picnic with friends.  The weather was still a bit chilly, but it was wonderful being able to spend time outside and soak up the sunshine.  Hopefully there will be a lot more picnics in our near future!

park

I spent the rest of Sunday making cake balls for a baby shower/birthday celebration at work.  It wasn’t any easier this time around than the first time I made them.  I don’t know how places like Starbucks make them look so flawless because mine sure didn’t.  Drew is convinced they use an automated machine and that there isn’t some actual person out there cranking out perfect cake ball after perfect cake ball.  I like his thinking.  But if there is, I want to beat them up.  And them make them teach me how to make the perfect cake ball.

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At least they tasted good. Really good.