Monday, March 29, 2010

Painting Party

This weekend we stayed busy busy with painting.  We are planning to put the house on the market sometime before the summer, so before then we really need to repaint the house, get the carpets cleaned, and box up some things to put in storage. 

So...the plan was to get a lot done this weekend.  Well...we definitely worked our tails off, but didn't get SO much done.  We did get the guest bedroom and bathroom done, along with touching up all the base boards, door frames, and window sills.  It was exhausting!  But, we've got a lot more to do, so if anyone is super bored, our door is always open for a painting party!  :-)

Here are a couple of pictures of the before and after product:

So, two rooms down....6 rooms and a lot of hallways to go!  :-)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tasty Thursday Treats vol. 2

Tonight's new meal was called "Chicken and Mushrooms in Garlic White Wine Sauce"....essentially, it was really like a chicken stroganoff.  We give it about a 2.5 out of 5.  It wasn't bad, just not great....and very, very TAN!

I think it could be good with a few tweaks, but then I also think it might turn into a totally different dish.  It was OK, but definitely not worth all the steps that went into it.  This will not be one for the recipe file.  :-(

Oh well...you win some, you lose some.

Here's looking to something tastier next time!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Little R & R (and some hiking)

This past weekend, Barrett & I each endulged in some much needed R & R....but each a little differently.

My weekend started by working.  Not really rest and relaxation, huh?  This weekend was the annual Hemby Cup hockey game.  The Hemby Cup was started a while back as a fundraiser for Hemby Children's Hospital (the hospital where I work).  We choose a few of our patients to be our "Hemby Heroes" and they get to do a couple of fun things at the Charlotte Checkers hockey game.  They get to have their names announced and drop the puck before the game.  Then, after the second period the fans all throw pucks onto the ice in the hopes of winning a car.  The kids then get to go onto the ice and help pick up all the pucks from "Chuck A Puck".  I participated in this as well with our kids...in ballet flats no less.  Scary.

Saturday, I was completely lazy, and it was awesome!  I finished my book, The Help (phenomenal by the way) and got to do a lot of snuggling with Buddy.  We laid around all day together and it was truly satisfying! 

Barrett's idea of relaxation is a tad different from mine.  He went backpacking and camping at Jones Gap State Park in SC.  He went with 5 friends of his, and spent the days hiking through the mountains.  The first night the guys camped near the rangers station. On Saturday, they packed up their gear and began hiking to Rainbow Falls.  Although the hike was only a mile and a half up to the falls it was about 1,000 feet elevation change and Barrett was carrying a 50 pound pack on his back!  Ouch!  Hello thigh workout!  He got some pretty great pictures of the falls...

Rainbow Falls

They took a couple more small hikes and called it an early evening because they were all so exhausted.  Barrett did see a couple of dogs while hiking...one of them had a backpack, so we are now in the market for a bag for Buddy.  :-)

Hope you all enjoyed your weekends.  The first day of Spring was beautiful here...here's hoping for much more sunshine!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tasty Thursday Treats

OK...so two weeks ago we said we were going to try a new recipe every week and post about it on Fridays.  Last week was a little crazy, and that didn't happen.  But, we really do mean it!  So, we started this week and vow to continue.

This week's new meal was Cajun Chicken Pasta.  We give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  With a few easy changes, it could easily be a yummy 4.5.


3/4 pound of Rotini pasta (or similar noodle)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (sliced in 1/2 inch chunks)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 heaping Tbsp. cajun seasoning (i.e., Tony Chachere, Slap Yo Mama)
2 red bell peppers, julienned
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

-Boil pasta according to instructions, drain, and set aside.
-Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.
-Add chicken.  Cook, stirring frequently, until browned. (about 6-8 minutes)
-Add garlic, Cajun seasoning, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Stir to mix.
-Add bell peppers and mushrooms.  Stir to combine. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
-Uncover, stir in heavy cream and let simmer another 2 minutes.
-Stir in parmesan cheese.
-Remove sauce from heat, stir into cooked pasta, and serve immediately.

Things we'd change for next time:

-Leave out black pepper, and reduce cayenne pepper to 1/4 tsp.
-Instead of using 2 red bell peppers, use 1 green and 1 red.
-Add 1/2 white onion.
-Saute veggies separately to get more charring and have them cooked a litte more.
-With the chicken, add shrimp or andouille sausage (if using the sauage, would cut back even a little more on the spices.)

All in all, a yummy meal.  Would definitely try it again with some tweaks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Half a Century and Double the Fun!

What a weekend!  This past weekend, we celebrated my mom's 50th Birthday!  It was packed full of fun, and I can't think of a better way to have celebrated her.

My sister and I had been planning this shindig for a few months.  All the details were a surprise to mom, so we had to keep it all undercover which was quite the undertaking!  All she knew was that Rachel and I were flying her into Charlotte for the weekend.  She thought we were just going to be hanging around here...but little did she know we had much more up our sleeves!

The first surprise was that my Aunt Shannon was flying in from Florida, and my cousin Katelyn was flying in from Louisiana.   They flew in on Wednesday night, and Mom flew in Thursday.  Picking her up at the airport started to turn into a mini-disaster.  Her flight got in early, the parking garage entrance bar wouldn't come up, and it took us at least a half hour to get inside baggage claim once we got to the airport.  Luckily - we made it to baggage claim before she did though.  We sent Shannon and Katelyn up to the Starbucks and once Rachel and I found Mom, we asked her if she wanted to run up and get a coffee (she always does).  We were deciding what to order, and Shannon and Katelyn snuck up behind us.  She was totally surprised!! :-)

Friday morning, my other cousin Michelle joined us and we headed up to Crumpler, NC.  My friend Elyse has a great cabin in the mountains (thank you Elyse!!) that she let us use for the weekend.  The drive there was a little scary...It rained pretty much the whole time, and once we finally got into the mountains...FOG!  I could barely see ten feet in front of me!  But, we eventually (after a slow trip up!) made it to the driveway.

The driveway...that's a story!  OK...so Elyse told me that the driveway was steep.  That we'd need to drop our car down into second gear and floor it up the driveway.  So, we drop the cars into 2nd, and floor it.  But...thanks to all the snow and rain this winter, the very steep driveway was turned to very steep mush.  We were going nowhere...not spinning, not stuck, just not moving at all!  So, what did we do?  We grabbed our things and hiked the half mile up the mountain.  Holy hamstrings!  We were so exhausted!  Luckily, there is a very nice man who lives at the bottom of the hill who takes care of the house.  We called him, and after he got off work, he said he'd come up and see what he could do for us.  So, he calls later that night and asks us to meet him down at our cars and he'd back them down the mountain and let us borrow his 4WD Subaru for the weekend.  Great!  Problem - no flashlights, and it is pitch black outside! And - what if there are bears!!??  But - my mom, Rachel, and I braved the dark scary driveway and began the trek down to our cars.  Then about halfway there, out of nowhere, in the pitch black night, two giant dogs start running up to us!  So, we silently panic a little.  Come to find out, the dogs belonged to the nice man at the bottom of the hill.  He saved us, we zipped the Subaru right up the mountain, and proceeded to have a wonderful weekend! 

We had a little birthday party for mom on Friday night...complete with presents, cake, and games!


Michelle and Katelyn

Mom's Goodies

Happy 50th!

Mom opening her new Pandora Bracelet

Cupcake Cake

We spent the entire day Saturday hanging out, playing games, and enjoying each others company.  It was so nice to have a girls weekend.  We definitely don't do it enough!!

Sabrina - one of the "scary" dogs from the bottom of the hill...
Really, they were big sweet babies!

Diesel - the massive Great Pyranees

View from the front porch


Dance Party 2010


The ladybugs from Tennessee followed me to Crumpler.

Happy Birthday Mommy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Celebrating an Amazing Start to the Rest of Our Lives

This weekend was very special.  We celebrated our first wedding anniversary!  We can not believe that it has already been a year!  It truly seems like just yesterday we were celebrating with all our friends and family.  We have had a wonderful first year and are so looking forward to what the future has in store for us.

We spent a nice long weekend at a log cabin resort in Seviervill, Tennessee called Brother's Cove.  We've been there a few times before.  It is so great!  Very peaceful and reaxing with wonderful views.  We had a great cabin on the top of the mountain...

We had a huge deck with a great view, a hot tub, a pool table, and lots of windows to take in the big blue sky.  The weather was really gorgeous...sunny and upper 50s.

Dining Area from the Living Room

Living Room and Fireplace from the Dining Area


Upstairs Pool Table Room

Bedroom Looking out to Pool Table Room

Upstairs Small Deck

Downstairs Deck, Hot Tub, and Rocking Chairs

Other Side of Deck with Grill and Swing

View from Deck

We got there around 7:00 on Friday night.  The drive took us about 5 hours from door to door, with a quick stop at the grocery store when we got to Sevierville.  It would have been a little less time, but I-40 is still closed at the NC/TN border from a rock slide.  We spent the first night relaxing.  We made a yummy baked chicken parmesan for dinner.  It inspired us to try something new this year.  Every week we're going to try at least one new recipe.  I'll post about it on the blog on Fridays, let y'all know if it was good, any issues in the kitchen...Then, we're going to start a recipe file of all the meals we enjoy.  We have been in a dinner rut, so we think this will help!  We played a couple of games of Bananagrams (which is super fun by the way!) and called it a night to get a fresh start the next day.

Saturday we decided to hang around in Sevierville/Pigeon Forge.  If you've never been there, it truly is the Myrtle Beach of the mountains.  It's beautiful, but pretty hokey!  We thought it would be fun to really do it right, so we decided we were going to ride go-karts, play mini golf, and take a tour of the Smoky Mountain Wine Trail.

For go-karts and mini golf, we went to the Nascar Speedpark.  Holy disaster!  We started out playing mini golf.  When we told the lady at the desk we wanted to play, she said, "Well, the course isn't in the greatest shape right now, so we're just letting people play for free."  Okay by us...we like free!  Well, "isn't in the greatest shape" was a tad of an understatement!  The moats had no water, the greens were torn up, water filled the holes...But, no worries, we played anyway!

Barrett at the Entrance to the "Dragon's Lair"

Ready to Get Started!

Hole #4...That's Right...Cement.

Victory!  (More on that later...)

After mini-golf, we hung around to ride some go-karts.  They advertised this one track where you drive 5/8 sized cars that go up to 28 miles an hour.  But, it was $27.50 per person...So, we went with the ten ticket package for $27 instead.  We chose a track called The Intimidator.  It had been a long time since either of us had ridden in a go-kart, but it was really a lot of fun!  I came in ahead of Barrett, so we'll go ahead and mark another W in Rebecca's column.  :-)  We had four tickets left after that ride, and guess what we found out...you can ride in the 5/8 sized car track for 4 tickets!  Don't ask me how that math works out...Anywho, Barrett went for a spin in one of those cars around the track.  A nice old man who worked there let me walk out onto the track to get an upclose picture of Barrett in his car.  The race got started, and it turns out the poor Barrett got stuck with the slowest car in the bunch!  It was really, really slow!  He got lapped!  Definitely glad we didn't pay $60 to ride them!

Cozy Little Car

Slow Poke :-)

We closed out the Speedpark with a little game of Skee Ball...that would end up in another W for Rebecca.  After our Nascar Adventure, we decided it might be time for a little afternoon drink...so, off to the winery we went!  Our first stop was a place called The Apple Barn and Cider Mill.  They had a windery, cider mill, bakery, candy shop, ice cream shop, and Christmas store!  We started in the winery and got to sample a few different wines.  We ended up buying a white Apple wine that was really tasty!  We walked around a bit, and walked into the bakery.  After walking in and smelling all the warm, delicious, cinnamon apple yumminess, we coudn't leave without a treat or two!  We bought a fried apple pie (their specialty) and shared a honey glazed apple doughnut.  Um...yum.  While at the winery, one of the people working there told us that they were partnered with two other nearby wineries.  If we visited all three, we'd get free wine glasses.  Again, who doesn't like free stuff?!  So...we ventured off to the other two.  Next we went to Hillside Winery.  The specialized in Italian style wines and sparkling wines.  We tasted a few good ones, but the best of the bunch was a wine freezer!  Think frozen daiquiri...made with a bottle of wine!  We tasted Sangria, Margarita, and Strawberry.  All were delicious but we ended up buying the Sangria and the wine they mixed with it, a blackberry and blueberry wine called (what else) Black and Blue.  The third winery on the tour was Mountain Valley Winery.  Here, we took a tour and got a little background info on the wine of the Smokies.  We tasted a few wines here, none too wonderful, but did get our free glasses!  After three wineries, we decided it might not be a bad idea to work our way back up the mountain to our cabin for the evening.

Apple Barn Winery

Hillside Winery

See...Myrtle Beach of the Mountains :-)

Once back at the cabin, we tried out the pool table.  I beat Barrett twice and he beat me twice, so we ended on an even note. (that would make the score 6 Wins to 2, by the way) The view from the upstairs pool room was really beautiful, so we enojyed spending some time up there before dinner.

Taking a Break from Getting Beat in Pool to Enjoy the Scenery

Another interesting point to the weekend would be the crazy ladybug infestation!  I have never seen so many ladybugs!  They were everywhere!  Most of them dead, but definitely a ton still alive.  I started by saving all the live ones I could find and putting them out on the porch.  Then, I realized that they were probably coming inside because it was so cold outside.  I also realized that I could spend my entire weekend saving the ladybugs, so we just let them be.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing...we grilled out yummy ribs, played dominoes (Barrett finally won two games of these), and relaxed in the hot tub.

Our Goodies from the Wineries

Our plans for Sunday were to head into Gatlinburg, do a bit of exploring downtown, and take a drive on Cades Cove Loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I woke up feeling kind of bad...stuffy, congested, headache.  So, we were a little slow getting started, but finally made it out the door.  About halfway to the park...I started to feel much worse.  I think it was a combo of being tired, being stuffy and congested, and the twisty, roller coaster roads in the mountains.  So...we turned around and headed back to the cabin.  Sad. :-(  But, it was actually very nice to just spend the day relaxing and enjoying each others company.

Being our acutal anniversary, we did have a couple special things planned to do together.  We exchanged gifts that morning.  We have decided that it would be nice to follow the traditional gift giving guidelines.  So, the first anniversary is paper...

I got Barrett a photo book that commemorated our first year together.  All the big events and things we did in 2009 were included....starting with our wedding and going through New Years.  I want to make one every year to keep up with all the things we do.

Barrett got me a canvas tote bag with my monogram on it.  I didn't have anything with my new initials and had been saying I wanted something.  Barrett was sure to tell me that he researched it, and that canvas was the original paper and that manilla paper actually used to be made from canvas, so it fit! 

We made a yummy steak dinner, shared a slice of the top layer of our wedding cake, and toated with a glass of champagne.  The champagne was a bottle we'd been given on our wedding day and saved, and we used our toasting flutes from the wedding.  Although it was low key because I wasn't feeling wonderful, it was truly special and we had a wonderful time.

We are looking forward to a lifetime full of many happy memories.  Thanks to all of our family and friends for the well wishes and support.  We love you all!

P.S.  Here is the recipe for our first new meal of the year.  Baked Chicken Parmesan.  Two Thumbs Up!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (butterflied or pounded thin) (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 jar (26 ounces) marinara sauce
1 cup Parmesan -or- shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Dip chicken in egg, then bread crumbs, coating well. (You can mix some parmesan cheese into the bread crumbs to make it tastier)
In a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish, arrange chicken.
Bake uncovered 20 minutes. (See NOTE)
Pour the marinara sauce over chicken, then top with cheese.
Bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
Serve if desired, with hot cooked pasta.

Makes 4 servings
NOTE: If using a metal pan, increase the oven temperature by 25 degrees